FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady walked into the New England Patriots' huddle with five and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Monday night against the Buffalo Bills, and he was brimming with a type of confidence that only a player with his reputation could have.
The Patriots trailed 24-13 and had showcased a largely uninspiring brand of football for nearly 55 minutes in their regular-season opener at Gillette Stadium. To boot, the Bills' offense just ate up over six minutes on a touchdown drive that — by all accounts — should have broken the Patriots' backs, if not their will.
But, of course, this is a story that has been told dozens of times before — in regular-season contests, playoff games and Super Bowls — and Brady led the Patriots to yet another improbable comeback victory.
"You see Tom coming off the sideline, and he comes in the huddle talking about 'We're going to win this game,'" wide receiver Randy Moss said. "When you have a guy like that saying positive things and then going out there to make it happen, you've got to have your hopes high and really think positive. Really, from 5:32 on, everything was positive."
Brady led the Patriots on an 11-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that only took 3:26, and he completed 8-of-10 passes for 81 yards, capping it off with an 18-yard scoring strike to tight end Ben Watson.
After Buffalo returner Leodis McKelvin fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Brady finished the job, completing all three of his passes for 31 yards and a 16-yard bullet to Watson, who made what Brady called the best catch of his career. The touchdown put the Patriots ahead 25-24 with 50 seconds remaining in the game.
Brady said after the game he felt that the outcome was never in doubt.
"Not for me, not at all," said Brady, who finished 39-of-53 for 378 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his first full game in 20 months. "I just felt we had three timeouts with [5:32] left … and I was just thinking, 'If we could get down the field before that two-minute warning, it's going to put a lot of pressure on [the Bills].' There were some great plays that the receivers made."
It was the 29th time in Brady's career that he led the Patriots to a victory following a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. Twenty-three of those occasions occurred in the regular season, with six coming in the playoffs, including all three Super Bowl wins.
The secret, according to Brady's teammates, is his ability to slow down the game and help everyone to concentrate on the task at hand. Even after 55 minutes of sloppy football, and throughout the most chaotic stretch of the night, Brady kept his cool and it rubbed off on everyone else.
"I know the 10 guys — 11, including [Brady] — when he comes in that huddle, everybody is really looking up to him and wants him to lead us down the field," Moss said. "When you've got a guy like that leading you down the field, you can't do nothing but go out there and try to run through a brick wall for him."