FOXBORO -- The final play from scrimmage on Sunday night was one that Patriots rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins will remember forever. And one that Saints safety Rafael Bush will quickly want to forget.
We'll try to get a good look at how the play broke down by using screen shots from the Fox telecast.
With 10 seconds left, Brady surveys the Saints defense and sees three defensive backs covering the field's deep thirds. In the shot above, only one of the three deep defenders (the middle man) is clearly visible. One defensive back is shielded by the Fox score box at the top of the picture. Bush, who apparently has the deep third on the left side, is out of the picture.
The Saints will rush just four while the rest will drop back into coverage, defending against a go-ahead score at all costs.
The Patriots have lined up with rookie receivers Thompkins and Aaron Dobson on the outside. Austin Collie and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui are in the slots. Running back Brandon Bolden is to Brady's left in the backfield.
This shot shows a couple of things:
1) Brady had a nice pocket from which to make his game-winning throw. Rob Ryan's defense sacked Brady five times in the game, but the offensive line did its job on New England's final drive.
2) The Saints have sold out to protect the end zone. Collie and Hoomanawanui run up the seams toward the goal line where defenders are waiting to double-cover them. Dobson runs straight up the field to the right corner of the end zone while Thompkins does the same on the other side. Bolden is allowed to run freely down the middle of the field.
Here we can see the double teams waiting for Collie and Hoomanawanui at the goal line. We also see Bush (in the end zone at the bottom of the "P" in "Patriots") caught in no-man's land. It's unclear if Bush made a move toward Collie -- potentially triple-teaming a guy who hasn't played in a regular-season game in over a year -- or if Brady's eyes took him to the middle of the field. The fact remains, Bush was late getting to Thompkins, and by the time Brady made his throw, there was no chance Saints corner Jabari Greer was getting any help.
This play didn't rely solely on a blown coverage by the Saints. Brady made a perfect throw to the corner of the end zone, over the arms of a leaping Greer and into the hands of Thompkins, who made an athletic move to turn and grab the ball at its highest point.
Bad time for a breakdown by Bush, but, especially considering the circumstances, it was a Hall-of-Fame toss by a future first-ballot quarterback.