FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- 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 exhibition 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
With the Patriots at their own 14, L.P. Ladouceur hit Matt
Cassel and forced a fumble that was scooped up by Jimmy Verdon and
brought into the end zone for an insurance score.
"We really wanted to come in here and get a win, regardless of
what unit was in the game," said Saints safety Dwight Smith, who
picked Brady off on the first play from scrimmage. "They scored in
the end to make up for the mistakes we made earlier on defense."
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
"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
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 Benjamin 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
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-for-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.