Tom Brady tossed three touchdown passes and tight end Rob Gronkowski set an NFL record by reeling in two more scores as the New England Patriots made a late defensive stand to hold on for a 34-27 road triumph over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Wes Welker snapped a 27-27 tie with a 24-yard touchdown with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter for AFC East-leading New England (10-3), which won its fifth straight game. Welker, who had seven catches for 86 yards, moved over the 100-reception plateau for the fourth time in his eight-year career.
After cornerback Josh Wilson intercepted Brady in the end zone, the Redskins drove the length of the field late in the fourth quarter. Santana Moss appeared to have tied the game, but his touchdown was negated after he was called for offensive pass interference. Two plays later, Moss bobbled a ball and it was picked off by linebacker Jerod Mayo with 22 seconds remaining.
With the game tied at 20-20, Brady lofted a pass to Gronkowski, who shed the attempted tackle of linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and rumbled 37 yards for his 15th touchdown of the season.
The mammoth tight end gave New England a 14-3 lead after making a routine catch, turning upfield and shedding two defenders on his way for a 49-yard gain. Gronkowski then capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown. He had been tied with San Francisco's Vernon Davis (2009) and San Diego's Antonio Gates (2004) with 13 touchdowns.
Former Redskin Andre Carter set the tone early by beating undrafted rookie Willie Smith and belting quarterback Rex Grossman from behind to jar the ball loose in the end zone. Vince Wolfork recovered to put New England on the scoreboard just 2:54 into the game.
Smith was pushed into the start after Jamaal Brown injured his groin in pregame warmups. Traditional starting left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis were suspended for four games earlier this week after violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Grossman tossed touchdown passes to former Patriot Jabar Gaffney and David Anderson. Moss reeled in a 49-yard scoring pass from wide receiver Brandon Banks on a reverse for Washington (4-9), which has dropped eight of its last nine games.
With a 15-yard reception, New England's Chad Ochocinco became the 26th player in NFL history to eclipse 11,000 receiving yards.