There are just under seven minutes to play in the third quarter on Dec. 29, and the Patriots' perfect season is in jeopardy. New England, trailing the Giants 28--16, has first-and-10 on its own 44-yard line. The call is Slot Checkdown Deep Curl. Tom Brady (12) sets up in the shotgun, with three wideouts. New York is in a nickel defense, with three cornerbacks. On the snap, corner Aaron Ross (31) takes a long blitz route to Brady, and running back Kevin Faulk (33) moves to pick him up. In the secondary, strong safety James Butler (37) misreads the called coverage and drifts toward Randy Moss (81) in the right flat, creating a hole in the zone for slot receiver Wes Welker (83). Faulk's critical block gives Brady the time he needs for Welker to clear. The result: a 28-yard completion and the key play in a drive that sparks the Patriots. They go on to score three straight touchdowns in a 38--35 victory that caps their 16--0 regular season.
AL TIELEMANS (BRADY)
BREAK POINT Welker found the gap in the zone, and the Pats' comeback was on.
ILLUSTRATION BY SLIM FILMS