FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Cameron Jordan stood up early Sunday evening, buttoning a plaid hooded shirt while favoring his right ankle slightly.
But you got the impression that as badly as his body part might have been hurting, it was what transpired on the Gillette Stadium field about 30 minutes earlier that pained him the most.
New England quarterback Tom Brady found receiver Kenbrell Thompkins behind Saints cornerback Jabari Greer in the back left corner of the end zone, sending New Orleans home with a gut-wrenching 30-27 loss instead of a confidence-boosting come-from-behind win.
“He came in and clearly did what we all know he’s capable of doing,” Jordan said of Brady. “Came down to the last couple of plays and we should have capitalized better.”
And now New Orleans heads into its bye week searching for renewed health both emotionally and physically.
Tight end Jimmy Graham left the game early with an undisclosed injury to his left leg and, after briefly returning, went into the locker room. Running back Darren Sproles limped off the field late in the fourth quarter after taking a shot on a pass play over the middle, though he returned. And there was Jordan’s injury, which took him out of the game in the second half before he returned late.
“You always want to get back to work as quickly as possible after that so that you can right the wrong, kind of wipe away the sins of the game that you lost,” said quarterback Drew Brees, who finished 17 of 36 for 236 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. “We’re coming into the bye week and it is going to be a great opportunity to get a lot of guys healthy, which will be great.
“You know, get us to full strength when we come back and prepare for Buffalo.”
That may include trying to figure out ways for Graham to beat physical coverage. For the first time since October of his rookie season, more than 36 months, Graham was held without a catch
“One thing they do a good job with is they disrupt you at the line of scrimmage better than anyone,” coach Sean Payton said. “They do a really good job of getting hands on receivers and tight ends.”
The patina of the game’s ending nearly was much glossier for the Saints. Brees guided New Orleans on a 10-play, 81-yard drive that chewed up more than five minutes of clock and handed New Orleans (5-1) its first lead of the game.
On third-and-20, after a shot play to Graham down the left sideline ended incomplete, Brees went right back at the back of the Patriots’ (5-1) secondary, finding rookie Kenny Stills for a 34-yard touchdown.
“I just tried to use my eyes to manipulate the safety a little bit to get as close to a one-on-one matchup out there as possible,” Brees said. “I knew he would be getting over there late, but Kenny did a great job of getting by his guy and going up and making a play in the end zone.”
The ensuing Patriots (5-1) series ended with an incomplete pass on their own 24 and the Saints took over. But they couldn’t get a first down and settled for a Garrett Hartley 39-yard field goal, one of two kicks of the day.
That gave the Saints a four-point lead with 2:29 to play and, when Brady was intercepted by Keenan Lewis, the game appeared over.
But New Orleans again couldn’t get a first down, punting the ball back to New England, and that set up the game-winning drive.
“This one is difficult because you certainly felt like you had a chance to win,” Brees said, adding, “We felt like if we kept hammering away that we could find a way to win. Lord knows we had our chances at the end there.”