A relieved Tom Brady took to the podium with a big smile.
“Just like we thought it would be,” the seven-time Super Bowl quarterback said after throwing two touchdown passes in the final three minutes Monday night to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bounce back from a 13-point Recovering behind with just over five minutes to go and beating the New Orleans Saints 17-16.
It was the 44th fourth-quarter comeback of Brady’s career, giving him sole ownership of the NFL record he previously shared with Peyton Manning.
Obviously frustrated and about to be held without a TD pass by the Saints for the third straight season, Brady scoring drives of 91 and 63 yards and led the Bucs (6-6) back to .500 and tightened the team’s grip First place in the weak NFC South.
“We had a lot of games to the end,” Brady said. “Some we won, some lost, so we’re 6-6. It’s not where we want to be, but we’ll keep fighting.”
The 45-year-old quarterback threw in a 1-yard TD pass to rookie Cade Otton at 16-10 with exactly three minutes left. He got the ball back with 2:29 left and then won the game with a six-yard throw to another rookie, Rachaad White, with three seconds left.
“They played hard, they showed courage. It was obviously a complete team effort,” said Bucs coach Todd Bowles. “The defense got the ball back, the offense redeemed it. Get it back, redeem it again.”
The Saints (4-9) swept the season series between division rivals each of the last two seasons, keeping Brady without a TD pass in a 38-3 loss at New Orleans in 2020 and again in a 9-0 away win in 2021.
Tampa Bay ended a seven-game regular-season losing streak in the series with a 20-10 win in Week 2, six sackings and five turnovers forcing Jameis Winston.
Andy Dalton, who did not play in the previous meetings, threw for 225 yards and a touchdown without an interception for New Orleans on Monday. However, the Saints ultimately paid for having to settle for three field goals from Wil Lutz on drives deep into Bucs territory.
The Bucs rebounded from an overtime loss to Cleveland and extended their divisional lead over the Atlanta Falcons to 1.5 games.
The bottom-placed Saints missed an opportunity to qualify for second place with the Falcons. None of the four teams in the NFC South has a winning record.
“I have to go into a bye week knowing we should have beat this team,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan. “We should have beaten this team the first time. This time we should have. … We should have beaten many other teams. We do not have that.”
Brady, who exchanged pre-game greetings with this winter’s biggest prize in baseball’s free agent market, AL MVP Aaron Judge, finished 36-of-54 for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
“Tom Brady is Tom Brady. He meticulously stuck to the plan of his dink and dunk,” Jordan said. “He had the one prayer he sent out there and was saved with the flag.”