When his team trails in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady is almost inevitable.
Down 13 points against the New Orleans Saints in the closing minutes, Brady steered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an improbable 17-16 win on Monday Night Football.
In the process, he passed Peyton Manning for the most career fourth-quarter comebacks (44) in the history of the NFL.
The win was extraordinary even by Brady’s standards, marking the largest regular-season fourth-quarter comeback in his career, according to ESPN.
“Just like we drew it up,” was the 45-year-old’s response when he arrived at the post-game press conference, prompting a ripple of laughter from those in attendance.
The comeback started with 5:21 remaining when Brady led the Bucs on a 10-play drive which ended when he found Cade Otton with a touchdown pass from one yard out.
That brought Tampa Bay within six points before Brady orchestrated an 11-play, game-winning drive and found Rachaad White for the touchdown with three seconds remaining.
Ryan Succop’s extra point made the difference between the two teams, moving the Bucs to 6-6 on the season at the top of the NFC South while the Saints drop to 4-9.
Brady ended the night 36-of-54 passing for 281 yards and later dedicated the win to his daughter Vivian, who celebrated her 10th birthday on Monday.
Having announced his retirement earlier this year only to reverse the decision, the win was evidence the seven-time Super Bowl champion is not yet done on the football field.
“We’ve got a lot games coming down to the end, some we’ve won, some we’ve lost, which is why we’re 6-6,” Brady told reporters. “It’s not where we want to be, but we’ll keep fighting.”
For the Saints, it was a frustrating night against their division rivals at Raymond James Stadium.
Quarterback Andy Dalton was 20 of 28 for 229 yards and one touchdown, which came when he connected with Taysom Hill in the second quarter. They were otherwise restricted to three field goals from Wil Lutz.
“I feel like a broken record saying the same thing over and over again,” said Dalton. “We just missed opportunities.”
Coach Dennis Allen shared Dalton’s frustration: “We gave ourselves every chance and didn’t get it done … I felt like we had an opportunity to win this game and didn’t finish,” he said.
New Orleans have a bye this weekend and next face the Atlanta Falcons on December 18, while Tampa Bay play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.