Tampa, Fla. — Tom Brady tied the NFL record for regular-season wins with some timely help from a porous New England defense showing signs of improvement.
Brady threw for 303 yards and one touchdown, and the Patriots held off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 19-14, to rebound from a last-second loss that left them searching for answers to defensive woes.
The Super Bowl champions rebounded from a 33-30 loss to Carolina, despite Brady turning the ball over twice — on his first interception in eight regular-season games and a fumble on one of Tampa Bay’s three sacks.
On a night when the offense gained 402 yards but only got in the end zone once, Brady lauded the defense, which slowed the Bucs down just enough to get the victory.
“They kept us in it all night,” Brady said. “I wish we could have scored more points offensively, but defense really held their own.”
Neither of Brady’s turnovers led to points for the Bucs (2-2), who were was unable to do much offensively until the fourth quarter, when their comeback bid was hindered by two missed field goals.
“We responded,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the defense, which yielded 456 yards and 32 points per game through the first four weeks of the season, contained the NFL’s No. 3 ranked passing attack until Jameis Winston rallied his team in the final 15 minutes.
“They had 100 yards in the first half. They moved the ball some. We made some plays. They made some plays,” Belichick added. “(Giving up) a lot fewer points, you got a chance to win.”
Brady threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan in the second quarter, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals of 27, 23, 45 and 48 yards for the Patriots (3-2).
Jameis Winston rallied Tampa Bay late with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate that trimmed New England’s lead to 16-14 with 2:09 remaining.
After Gostkowski’s fourth goal put the Patriots up by five, Winston marched the Bucs from his 25 to the Patriots 19 before throwing an incompletion on the final play.
It might not have come down to a last-minute drive if not for another poor performance by Tampa Bay’s Nick Folk.
The veteran kicker missed two field goals and an extra-point before beating the New York Giants on a last-second kick last week. He missed three more field goals Thursday night, including a 31-yarder in the fourth quarter that would have cut a nine-point deficit to six with just under six minutes to go.
“I left points out there,” said Folk, who also misfired from 56 yards just before halftime and 49 yards on the second play of the fourth quarter. “We should have won the game 20-19, so this one’s on me.”
With his 186th career regular-season win as a starter, Brady tied Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for the most by a quarterback in NFL history. He also has 25 postseason victories, including five Super Bowls.
Playing without injured star tight end Rob Gronkowski (thigh), Brady was 30 of 40 passing with one interception. Danny Amendola had eight catches for 77 yards and Hogan had eight for 74 yards.
Defensively, the Patriots entered the night on pace to yield more than yards than any team in league history.
And, Winston and a young Tampa Bay offense that’s progressively gotten better since he was selected first overall in the 2015 draft was hoping to be the latest beneficiary of New England’s struggles.
Running back Doug Martin provided a lift in his return from a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers with 74 yards rushing and one touchdown.
But one week after throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and overcoming a pair of fourth-quarter deficits to beat the Giants, Winston was unable to move the ball consistently until the fourth quarter.
The Bucs didn’t have a third-down conversion until late in the third quarter, and Martin’s 1-yard touchdown came on a drive the Patriots kept alive with a hands-to-the-face penalty on third down.
Winston threw for 225 yards in the fourth quarter, finishing 26 of 45 with 334 yards and zero interceptions. DeSean Jackson had five receptions for 106 yards.
“You can’t play them over again,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “We let this one slip away. It was a good opportunity.”