FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's first pass Sunday ricocheted off a helmet and was intercepted on a diving one-handed play by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. It was an inauspicious start to what finished up as a forgettable afternoon for the quarterback.
Sure, it was the 34th consecutive game in which he threw for a score, the fourth-longest streak of all time. And, yeah, he also locked up the fourth spot on the NFL's all-time passing yardage list, surpassing Johnny Unitas.
But after finishing 28-for-46 for 316 yards, a touchdown and an interception, one look at the scoreboard -- a 20-18 win for the Cardinals -- was enough for Brady to know that he left points on the field.
Particularly unnerving for him were the "negative plays" -- penalties, sacks, tackles behind the line of scrimmage -- that stalled New England's offense.
"Offensively, when you dont play well and you dont play consistently, if youre not going to get a big play, then you have to drive the ball," Brady said, "and you cant drive the ball if you're always two steps forward, one step back. Thats the way it felt today. Wed get the drive going and then there would be a negative play and wed be forced to try to make a miraculous play to get back on track. It just wasnt a very good day in that sense."
Through three quarters, Brady was 14-for-25 for 150 yards and a pick. He had also been sacked three times. Without Aaron Hernandez, who left in the first quarter with an ankle injury, the game plan was changing, and Brady looked off.
It wasn't until New England's penultimate drive in the fourth quarter -- its only touchdown drive of the day -- that Brady appeared to be in rhythm. With just over five minutes remaining in the game, he completed five consecutive passes in a no-huddle attack that quickly moved the Patriots from their own 18 yard line all the way to Arizona's 28.
They were fast, they were efficient. And Tom Brady looked like Tom Brady. He was on time with his throws and he fit passes in to tight windows to Rob Gronkowski, who before that drive had just one catch for nine yards.
Brady capped the series with a five-yard touchdown strike to Gronkowski, finishing the drive 8-for-10 for 82 yards.
Wes Welker noticed the offense began to click when it went into hurry-up mode.
"We work on that a lot," Welker said. "We practice it and it was effective for us, especially late in the game. It was crunch time and we were able to make some plays and get down the field and score. We just have to finish a lot of those drives on touchdowns instead of field goals."
Of course, one more field goal would have won the game. But Brady explained that if he and the offense had played more efficiently leading up to Stephen Gostkowski's missed game-winning attempt, a win would have been in hand long before that wayward boot.
"Its a team game and certainly we shouldnt have been leaving it up to that particular situation . . . We just came up short," Brady said. "We have opportunities to make plays and were just not making them. Just too inconsistent throughout the day to really put enough points on the board."