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.