The New England Patriots were only perfect when they needed to be.
In a frenetic finish that will be woven into Patriots lore, Tom Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds to play, lifting New England to a 30-27 victory Sunday over previously undefeated New Orleans.
"We sent all the guys to the end zone and at that point you're just trying to pick a side," Brady said. "I looked right and came back left and saw K made a move and slipped behind him and I just tried to put it back there where he could make a play. That was pretty sweet."
It was anything but sweet to Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who looked like he had just gulped curdled milk as he watched Brady direct the Patriots 70 yards with no timeouts for the winning score. The Gillette Stadium crowd was on the verge of erupting as the video boards flashed, "Quiet please!"
What that drive will do is silence the premature postmortems on the Patriots, who a week earlier mustered just six points in a Cincinnati monsoon.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick delivered a tongue-in-cheek apology Sunday to reporters after the game.
"Sorry if you had to rewrite some of those stories there at the end," he said, adding, "I feel like that took about five years off my life."
So the Saints dropped from the ranks of the undefeated, and the league's two 6-0 teams are in the AFC West, not so long ago among the NFL's weaker divisions. And while the Patriots will frame that victory and hang it on the wall, the Broncos and Chiefs were mostly hanging on for dear life Sunday.
Kansas City beat Oakland, 24-7, and Denver beat Jacksonville, 35-19, but both of those games were closer than the scores suggest.
The Broncos, who were favored by an NFL-record 27 points, even heard a smattering of boos from the home crowd when they headed into the locker room with a 14-12 halftime lead. The standards are unbelievably high, considering that through five weeks the Peyton Manning-led Broncos had averaged 46 points per game.
It was somewhat bizarre to see Denver running a fake punt in the third quarter of a game that was expected to be well on ice by that point.
Less surprising was the fact the Raiders put up a respectable fight at Arrowhead Stadium, where they had won their last six meetings with the Chiefs. Sunday's game was tied at halftime, 7-7, before Kansas City eased away in the second half.
The Chiefs sacked Terrelle Pryor 10 times, and the Raiders were flagged for 11 penalties. Of course, it didn't help the visitors that they could only communicate with hand signals.
Just a few weeks after Seattle Seahawks fans staked a claim to a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being "the loudest crowd to attend an outdoor sporting event," Chiefs fans cranked the volume one higher.
Seattle notched a decibel count of 136.6, and Kansas City topped that with a 137.5 reading in the final minutes of the game.
"That was loud, real loud," Chiefs Coach Andy Reid said. "The ground was shaking."
So the challenge is tossed back to Seattle, where the crowd was so raucous in a 2010 playoff game that the earth actually moved; local seismometers recorded a small earthquake.
The shouts coming from Seattle on Sunday were mostly wails of frustration, as the Seahawks had an unexpectedly tough time dispatching of Tennessee. On their way to collecting their 11th home victory in a row — a 20-13 win — the Seahawks had a slew of blown assignments and a couple of turnovers, including a botched hold on a field goal at the end of the first half that became a 77-yard fumble return for a Titans touchdown.
"We made it kind of rough on ourselves today," said Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, whose team improved to 5-1. "We could have had a better day. Some stuff got away from us. The ball was greased today."
Pittsburgh finally has something to show in the win column.
The Steelers picked up their first victory of the season with a 19-6 triumph at the New York Jets. Not since 1968, when Pittsburgh lost its first six games, has the franchise gotten off to such a bumpy start.
No one is running away with the AFC North, though, and the Steelers (1-4) are still swirling the Terrible Towels, not the white flags.
"We're not going to quit," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Obviously, it wasn't the start we wanted, but the men in this locker room believe there's a chance that something great could come out of this if we all work on it."
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson played in Sunday's loss to Carolina, two days after his 2-year-old son died in South Dakota of injuries from alleged abuse. The boyfriend of the child's mother has been arrested.
"It's tough. It's a crazy situation," Peterson said. "Any time you lose a child, no matter the circumstances, it hurts. I can't describe it. But I've got a good supporting cast."
No regular Joe
Thirty-two teams passed multiple times on Joseph Fauria in the NFL draft.
Sunday, the Detroit Lions passed to the 6-foot-7 Fauria three times — and the former UCLA tight end came away with three touchdowns.
"Being a rookie and being young, you have to work your way up and earn that trust," said the undrafted Fauria, who had touchdown receptions of one, 23 and 10 yards in the 31-17 victory at Cleveland. "I just talked to the quarterbacks this past week and they are just starting to get used to how I run routes."
Asked what sets Fauria apart, Lions Coach Jim Schwartz praised his football sense, toughness and strong hands, but led with the obvious.
"Well, first of all," Schwartz said, "he's tall as hell."