FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Aug. 18, 2005) -- Tom Brady got off to a rough start. The rest of the Super Bowl champions didn't finish up too well.
After throwing an interception on his first play of the preseason, Brady led the Patriots on two consecutive scoring drives, and Doug Flutie converted two more TDs on Thursday night before the New Orleans Saints rallied against the New England subs for a 37-27 preseason victory.
"I certainly would have liked to play a lot better," said Brady, who sat out last week's exhibition opener. "When you start the game with an interception, that really sets the tone for the whole day. From my standpoint I need to play a lot better."
The two-time defending NFL champs led 27-16 with 5:43 left in the third quarter before Aaron Brooks hit Devery Henderson on a 34-yard touchdown pass, then missed on the 2-point conversion to leave it 27-22.
Saints backup Todd Bouman hit Michael Lewis for 15 yards on a fourth-and-2 just before the two-minute warning. After an incompletion, Bouman threw to Nate Poole, who lunged for the end zone to break the plane as a defender grabbed his foot to pull him back.
|Nate Poole's leap into the end zone proved to be the game-winning score for the Saints.|
Brady, who didn't play in a 23-13 win over Cincinnati, was 6-for-11 for 105 yards and one interception before giving way to Flutie with 6:32 left in the first half. Flutie converted two touchdowns on his first three plays in a much-anticipated return to New England, where he won the Heisman Trophy for Boston College and spent four seasons with the Patriots during his well-traveled pro career.
"It was exciting," said Flutie, who completed 3 of 4 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. "It's fun for me to be out there with the young guys, see the look in their eyes, too."
Brooks played three quarters for the Saints and went 14-for-23 for 158 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Deuce McAllister, who had a costly fumble on the third play of New Orleans' 34-15 loss to Seattle last week, carried 20 times for 88 yards.
Brady and Flutie both sat out the preseason opener while the Patriots held tryouts for the No. 3 job between rookie Cassel and Rohan Davey, who's in his fourth year. Brady, who went an NFL-record 162 pass attempts without an interception to start his career, threw behind tight end Ben Watson on a 15-yard out pattern and Smith stepped in front of the ball to set up John Carney's 23-yard field goal.
But the two-time Super Bowl MVP responded on the next possession, hitting Tim Dwight on a 45-yard pass to the Saints 12. Patrick Pass, playing because Corey Dillon missed practice all week to be with his wife during childbirth, ran it in from the 2.
After New Orleans punted, Brady led the Patriots to the Saints 5 before Adam Vinatieri's field goal made it 10-3. McAllister ran three straight times for 26 yards to start a 75-yard drive that ended on Mike Karney's 1-yard run to make it 10-all.
Josh Miller's punt pinned the Saints at the 3, but Brooks drove them to the 20 before throwing a pass that bounced off receiver Joe Horn and defender Chad Scott into Rodney Harrison's hands. He carried it to the 3, and Kyle Eckel brought it in from there to make it 17-10.
The crowd, still admiring Harrison's interception, didn't notice that Flutie had replaced Brady in the game. But the 42-year-old hometown favorite drew a big cheer when he was announced for the next series.
Flutie responded by hitting Dwight for 12 yards on the first play and then, on the next play, connecting with a well-covered Jason Anderson in the front corner of the end zone to make it 24-13. It had been 17 years since Flutie threw a touchdown pass in Foxborough wearing a Patriots uniform; his last appearance here for New England was in Foxboro Stadium against the Houston Oilers on Dec. 3, 1989.
"It's unique," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He's like a little kid, running around out there. He's got a lot of energy. In competitive situations, that flows over to other players. It's not the most orthodox way of playing, but he's productive."
Flutie was in for just nine plays over three series that resulted in two touchdowns and a field goal. Cassel, who was hailed after leading New England to victory in his pro debut, was 7 of 11 for 69 yards, but he was sacked three times; Davey didn't play.
"That's the way we expected it to go," Belichick said.
Pass ran 11 times for 88 yards, breaking free for 49 yards on New England's first possession of the second half. That helped set up Vinatieri's 32-yard field goal to make it 27-16.
Bouman was 6 for 12 for 79 yards.