FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Too bad all those Patriots fans who left Gillette Stadium in disgust when their team was down didn't wait a minute.
Because that's all Tom Brady needed.
Fans left in a half-empty stadium roared when the two-time NFL MVP threw the winning touchdown pass with 5 seconds left. They beat the traffic while the Patriots were beating the Saints, 30-27.
Coming off one of his worst games, Brady threw the decisive 17-yard pass to rookie free agent Kenbrell Thompkins, knocking New Orleans from the unbeaten ranks Sunday.
"Guys made big-time catches," Brady said. "It was just a great game."
Slowly but steadily, new pass catchers have made their mark after the Patriots lost their top five receivers from last season's highest-scoring NFL team. Now he's throwing to Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola and Austin Collie.
"I have confidence in those guys," Brady said. "We're certainly not perfect out there. We're definitely just grinding."
Many fans had abandoned hope and left Gillette Stadium by the time the Patriots it out. But at Fenway Park, some 30 miles away, a big cheer went up at Game 2 of the AL championship series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers when Thompkins jumped for the winning pass.
"Coach Bill said that it might come down to the final seconds," Thompkins said. "You had to stick with the system. We just had to go out there and fight to the finish."
The Saints (5-1) had taken a 24-23 lead with 3:29 remaining on Drew Brees' 34-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills and the extra point, but couldn't put away New England.
The Patriots (5-1) survived an interception by Keenan Lewis on their first snap after Garrett Hartley's 39-yard field goal made it 27-23.
Brady started the winning 70-yard drive, with no timeouts, with completions of 23 yards to Julian Edelman, 15 to Collie and 6 to Dobson for a first down at the Saints 26. But he threw two incompletions before connecting with Collie for a 9-yard gain on fourth down and a first down at the 17.
He spiked the ball to stop the clock, then sent his receivers deep.
"We had everybody going to the end zone and (Thompkins) kind of snuck into the corner and I put it up there for him and he came down and made a great catch," Brady said.
Thompkins outfought cornerback Jabari Greer in the left side of the end zone.
"That's something that you'll replay in your mind for a long time," Greer said. "We fought hard, we're resilient, and it happens like that. For it to happen to me, I'll just have to bear the burden for this week."
The Patriots were headed for their second straight loss one week after the Cincinnati Bengals beat them 13-6. Brady's streak of 52 regular-season games with at least one touchdown pass ended in that defeat; Brees holds the NFL record with 54.