Foxborough, Mass. — On a night when he reached 500 career touchdown passes, Tom Brady welcomed back a buddy with one of his three scoring tosses Thursday, then connected with a newcomer who could help him reach more milestones.
Brady also sneaked in for a rushing touchdown and the New England Patriots put together their second straight win after a mediocre start to the season, beating Indianapolis, 38-24.
Brady’s 500th went to Josh Gordon, recently acquired from Cleveland, where he basically was unavailable through NFL suspensions for all but five games over the past three seasons. But, as he often does, Brady spread the wealth, hitting running back James White 10 times for 77 yards, and greeting the return of buddy Julian Edelman by completing seven for 57 yards to him.
“We wanted to get him the ball and he made some great plays,” Brady said about Edelman. “Just good to have him out there. We all want it to be perfect when we go out and it was great to have him out there … healthy and having fun.”
As for 500 TD passes, third on the career list behind Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Favre (508), Brady called it a collective mark.
“I think all these things like that, milestones, there are so many people that contribute, all the people that have really worked hard,” he said. “A quarterback doesn’t throw to himself.
“These are all great team awards, pretty cool.”
The five-time NFL champion also tied Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, a former teammate, for most victories with 226. Brady finished 34 for 44 for 341 yards.
As everyone in Gillette Stadium except, apparently, the Colts knew, Brady started off with a pass to Edelman, who was wide open for 9 yards. That drew the first of many loud cheers for the 10th-year veteran receiver in his first game since the 2017 preseason, when he tore up a knee. Edelman was suspended for the first four games this year for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.
“During the rehab you are just sitting there and waiting to get back on the field,” Edelman said. “It felt great to be out there with the guys.”
That was the first of three receptions for 28 yards for Edelman on the opening 75-yard touchdown drive Brady capped with a 1-yard toss to Cordarrelle Patterson .
From there, even though the Colts (1-4) had a drive deep into New England (3-2) territory, usually reliable Adam Vinatieri missed a 38-yard field goal.
Nothing was going right for Indianapolis, particularly after Brady led a 72-yard march to his sneak from the 1. Then he took the Patriots 68 yards near the end of the half and hit workhorse White for a 6-yard score to lead 21-3.
Under pressure, Andrew Luck threw a poor pass that Patrick Chung intercepted at midfield, and Stephen Gostkowski made a 45-yard field goal for a 24-3 halftime lead.
Luck did extend his string of games with a touchdown pass by hitting Eric Ebron on a 14-yarder in the third quarter. Showing a strong arm all night — remember, Luck missed all of 2017 with shoulder issues — he has a TD throw in 28 successive games, tops of any current quarterback.
“We’re not going to win consistently until we learn how to get out of our own way,” Luck said. “That’s not taking anything away from New England. They were the better team today. Anybody who watched it or played in it knows it. It was self-evident.
“But we’re going to have to learn how not to lose if we want to give ourselves a chance to win.”
After Matthias Farley’s interception of a pass bobbled by Chris Hogan, Indy could do nothing. Rookie Jordan Wilkins had the ball stripped from his hands by Devin McCourty four players later.
But a second pick of Brady that was not his fault — Rob Gronkowski had the ball stolen and Najee Goode wound up with it — helped the Colts get back into it for a short time.
Looking like vintage Luck, he brought his team 80 yards, including a pair of big third-down throws to Ebron, and Eric Swoope caught a 13-yard scoring pass to make it 24-17.
That’s when everyone saw vintage Brady as he hit the half-century mark for TD throws by connecting with newcomer Gordon for 34 yards, the 71st player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, an NFL mark.
“A great play Josh made jumping over two defenders,” Brady said. “It tells you kind of the confidence I have in him in a short period of time. Obviously he has earned it.”
High praise for Mayfield
Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale has seen enough of Baker Mayfield, the Browns rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall draft pick, to be impressed.
“I’ve already told the defense this: I think Baker Mayfield’s this generation’s Brett Favre, John Elway, if you will,” he said. “I mean, this guy knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he’s very accurate. He has a quick release and he’s really playing well.”
In two games, including just one start, Mayfield is 38-for-64 for 496 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But it’s his self-belief that has perhaps most impressed Martindale ahead of the Ravens’ game Sunday in Cleveland.
Sherman rants on rules
The way Richard Sherman tells it, defenses may as well not even show up for today’s pass-friendly NFL, seeing how rules are “making it impossible” to stop the record-breaking offensive show.
With or without the cornerback, who was practicing Thursday in a surprise return from a calf injury, the 49ers defense, like any other, is more prone to failure than ever. Four games into the NFL season, records have been set for points scored (3,030), touchdowns (344) and touchdown passes (228).
“This is what the league wanted. They want record passing numbers,” Sherman said. “You’ve got an average quarterback passer rating like 92. That used to be Hall of Fame numbers. Now that’s the average quarterback.”
“You can’t touch ’em, You can’t tackle ’em. You can’t hit ’em high. You can’t hit ’em low. You can’t knock them to the ground hard. If you push them too bad, all that’s a penalty.”