The Patriots rallied from a 17-7 first-half deficit to beat Houston 34-31 Sunday afternoon. It was their second come-from-behind win in as many weeks; New England was down 24-0 to Denver last weekend before storming back for a 34-31 overtime victory, which was the biggest comeback of Tom Brady's career.
The quarterback will not bemoan being 9-3. He is not banking on New England winning out the season if the slow starts continue, however.
"I'll watch the tape and figure it out, but whatever we're doing is not good enough," he said after the most recent white-knuckled win. "And we can't keep getting behind because you've got to play too well in the second half to overcome the turnovers -- those never help."
The team's only turnover of the game falls squarely on Brady's shoulders. He floated a third-down pass over the middle of the field to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was well covered, in the first quarter. Houston translated the botched play into three points to take a 10-0 lead.
But Brady is too savvy a diplomat to pretend things didn't turn out well enough.
"We did a good job with penalties today and didn't get sacked. To go [against] one of the best fronts in football to not get sacked…" he stopped just short of admitting pride. "They can really rush the quarterback. We had some good match ups, we made a lot of plays. They're pretty good in the secondary and those guys played really hard. They're a good defense; they're the Number 1-rated pass defense in the league."
It didn't appear that way this Sunday.
The Patriots enjoyed a glut of offense on Houston's home field. Brady completed 29 of 41 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns. The team accumulated 453 total yards and scored 14 points in the third quarter, 27 in the second half.
Not bad, considering New England was outscored 44-9 in the third quarters of its first seven games. Maybe that's why Brady finally allowed himself good humor for one of the first times this season. The Patriots may have one of the best records in football, but it's been a rough road. Every time they won it almost felt like an accident.
Maybe now, after needing to dial up some serious second half offense and being able to do so, Brady feels like New England is legitimately gaining control of its destiny.
"It was good to get a win on the road. We talked about that because we lost the last three on the road so, communication needs to be better in and out of the huddle, our execution on third-down, critical third down is important, really making some clutch plays like we did on defense. That last stop they made really saved the game for us."
Indeed, the game's last few drives were critical and went just as New England needed them to.
A 53-yard field goal booted by Stephen Gostkowski knotted the score up at 31. The Patriots defense did its job by pushing Texans QB Case Keenum to three-straight incomplete passes. Gostkowski nailed another 53-yarder on New England's following drive to give the team a precious three-point lead.
That's when the 'D' sealed up the game for good.
"It ended up being a dogfight for us and we found a way to pull it out," Brady concluded. "I think that's the most important thing: No matter the situation, if you're ahead late, if you're behind late, you've got to figure out a way to win it at the end."