The New England Patriots sit at 3-3 heading into their divisional clash with the New York Jets. Two of those three games were lost by one, with the other lost by two. In all three of those games, the Patriots had a chance late for a game-winning drive. If the Patriots expect to win Sunday, they will need a much better performance in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots have been outplayed on both offense and defense in fourth quarters since their Super Bowl loss in February. Including that loss, the Patriots have been outscored 47-21 in six of the last seven fourth quarters. Even more troubling is that in two of the team’s three losses this season, they’ve led after three quarters of play. The only solid fourth quarter the Patriots have had this year was in week four, when the Patriots outscored the Buffalo Bills 31-7 by scoring four touchdowns.
Prior to this season, the fourth quarter had not been a worrying time for the Patriots. Since Tom Brady took over as starting quarterback in 2001, he has led the Patriots to 34 fourth quarter comebacks. But the Patriots haven’t had a touchdown in three of their last four fourth quarters.
Last week the Patriots led 20-10 heading into the final period against the Seattle Seahawks. In those final fifteen minutes, they were outscored 14-3, which culminated in a one point loss. Brady in that period threw a key interception in the end zone and was penalized for intentional grounding. The Patriots offense, which leads the league in yards and points, got a final chance receiving the ball at their own 20 yard line with 1:14 left but were unable to gain even one first down.
For the Patriots to win games, they must play better in the fourth quarter. The team’s secondary has been one of the league’s worst this season which, with the lack of production on offense, has helped opposing teams come back on them. If the offense is unable to move the ball in the fourth quarter Sunday, they could see a similar result.
Over the past eleven seasons, the Patriots offense has played its best during the fourth quarter. Brady has become known for being able to lead his team from behind to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. But this season has been different. The defense would be expected to struggle late in games as they sit near the bottom of the league, but the offense leads the league in all major categories and would be expected to put leads out of reach. If they don’t do that Sunday, it could be another devastating loss for the AFC favorites.