Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final three minutes Monday night, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rally from a 13-point deficit to beat the New Orleans Saints 17-16 and tighten their grip on first place in the weak NFC South.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion tossed a one-yard TD pass to rookie Cade Otton, finishing a 91-yard drive to pull within 16-10 with exactly three minutes remaining. He got the ball back with 2:29 to go, then won it with a 6-yard throw to another rookie, Rachaad White, with three seconds left.
Andy Dalton threw for 225 yards and a touchdown without an interception for New Orleans, but the Saints ultimately paid for having to settle for three field goals by Wil Lutz on drives deep into Bucs territory.
The Bucs (6-6) extended their division lead over the Atlanta Falcons to 1½ games. The last-place Saints (4-9) missed out on opportunity to pull into a tie for second with the Falcons. None of the four teams in the NFC South has a winning record.
Brady, who before the game exchanged greetings with the biggest prize on this winter’s baseball free agent market AL MVP Aaron Judge, finished 36 of 54 for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
A week after being shutout for the first time in 332 games, the Saints built a 10-3 halftime lead on Dalton’s 30-yard scoring pass to Taysom Hill and a 38-yard field goal set up by just the third interception Brady has thrown all season.
Demario Davis’ pick was also only the eighth takeaway New Orleans defense — by far a league-low — in 13 games. Defensive end Cameron Jordan later forced a fumble that the Saints turned into a 12-play, 7-minute, 20-second drive that Lutz finished with a 21-yard field goal, making it 13-3 late in the third quarter.
Judge was on the sidelines before the game — posing for pictures, signing autographs and wearing a Mike Evans No. 13 Buccaneers jersey. The team also tweeted a short video of Brady greeting the slugger, who has an offseason home in Tampa, where the New York Yankees hold spring training. Judge set an American League record with 62 homers with the Yankees this year. He also led the AL with 131 RBIs and finished second with a .311 batting average.
Saints: Played without cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) for eighth consecutive game. Safety P.J. Williams was inactive, too, after suffering a knee injury the previous week against the 49ers. … Linebacker Zack Baun (ankle) left in the third quarter and did not return.
Buccaneers: All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs was inactive with a high ankle sprain. Tight end Cameron Brate (illness) and three defensive starters — cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quadriceps) and safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) and Mike Edwards (hamstring) — also sat out.
Buccaneers: Travel to San Francisco next Sunday.
Brady throws for 2 late TDs, Buccaneers beat Saints 17-16