It certainly energized a Colts defense that was flying all over the field at the start of the second half. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis kept Brady under pressure most of the afternoon and when middle linebacker Gary Brackett picked off a Brady pass in the first minute of the fourth quarter that led to Manning’s sneak, Indy seemed in control.
But Brady, who had 30 touchdown passes in the first half of the season, putting him on course to shatter Manning’s three-year-old record of 49, finally awoke. The long pass to Moss was New England’s first gain longer than 19 yards. It came on a scramble by Brady, who extended his record with at least 3 TD passes a game to start the season to nine games.
Moss proved to be a key throughout, finishing with 9 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. That came in the first quarter, when he easily leaped high over 5-8 Tim Jennings to pull in a 4-yard TD.
Coach Tony Dungy said the Colts had prepared for Moss, knowing the Patriots would go to him when they needed a big play. Yet, they were unable to contain him when it counted most.
“We didn’t have the answer for Randy Moss today,” Dungy said. “We had a lot of attention paid to him trying to stop him from catching the deep balls but he caught the deep one at the big time of the game. That was really the play of the game, got them a quick score.”
The Colts played without Marvin Harrison, their top receiver, who missed his third straight game with a knee injury. Starting left tackled Tony Ugoh also was out and the Colts lost Tony Gonzalez, Harrison’s replacement, with a finger injury in the first half.
In the end, that wasn’t as much a factor as Brady. He threw for 153 of his 255 yards in the fourth quarter as the Patriots broke a three-game losing streak against the Colts, who beat them here 38-34 in the AFC title game last season and went on to win the Super Bowl by beating Chicago.
In that championship game, New England squandered an early 21-3 lead. On Sunday, though, the defense chipped in.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
This time, the Patriots failed early. But they survived late, when it was most important.
Notes: Moss has 11 touchdown catches in nine games, tying the New England record for a season. ... Addai ran for 112 yards and had 5 catches for 114 yards to become the first player in Colts history to go into triple figures in rushing and receiving in the same game. ... The Colts had a 13-game winning streak going back to last season ended. ... This was the third straight season they had started 7-0. They were 9-0 last season and 13-0 two years ago.
CSN: Chip Kelly says he'll adapt his offense to fit the NFL, but analyst Ron Jaworski isn't sold.
NBC Sports video
Pats dig deep
Nov. 4: Tom Brady says his Patriots knew they'd overcome the 10-point 4th quarter deficit against the Colts.
NBC Sports video
9-0 and counting
Nov. 4: Tom Brady says Patriots are more concerned with the playoffs, not perfection, and Peyton Manning discusses his team's loss.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Urlacher a borderline Hall of Famer?
ProFootballTalk: People in the know claim they don't believe Brian Urlacher is a sure-fire candidate for the Hall of Fame, and Mike Florio agrees.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.