With events off the field dominating a dramatic day that saw widespread player protests, Brady once again laid on a masterclass to throw for five touchdowns in a 36-33 victory at Gillette Stadium.
The crowning moment of a 378-yard passing display by the 40-year-old Brady came with the Patriots trailing 28-33 with just over two minutes remaining. An eight-play 75-yard drive ended with Brady hitting receiver Brandin Cooks with a 25-yard pass into the end zone for the game-winning score.
The Patriots win helped New England move to 2-1 in the AFC East, putting them level with the Buffalo Bills who lead on points difference. The Bills pulled off an upset 26-16 win over the unbeaten Denver Broncos, Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for two touchdowns and 213 yards to spark the Bills.
Denver were one of seven previously unbeaten teams to taste defeat in early games on Sunday. In Detroit, Matt Ryan threw for two touchdowns as the Atlanta Falcons won the battle of the unbeatens with a hard-fought 30-26 victory over the Lions. Ryan, desperate to atone this season after last year’s Super Bowl collapse, made 24 completions from 35 passing attempts to finish with 294 yards at Ford Field.
The win leaves Atlanta with a perfect 3-0 record at the top of the NFC South while Detroit fell to 2-1 after the loss.
The Carolina Panthers meanwhile saw their unbeaten start to the season end with an emphatic 34-13 loss to the previously winless New Orleans Saints.
Saints veteran quarterback Drew Brees shredded the vaunted Panthers defence with three touchdown passes for 220 yards.
In late games Sunday, Aaron Rodgers conjured a 27-24 overtime win for the Green Bay Packers against the winless Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers found receiver Geronimo Allison with a 72-yard connection to set up Mason Crosby’s winning field goal.
Kansas City meanwhile preserved their unbeaten record with a 24-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs are now 3-0 to lead the NFC West.
In Washington, Kirk Cousins passed for 365 yards and three touchdowns, running back Chris Thompson had 150 yards receiving and a touchdown, and the Washington Redskins posted a 27-10 win over the Oakland Raiders.