The New England Patriots went into the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with a ten point lead. But the team’s fourth quarter troubles showed up again as the Jets took over the lead with just 1:42 remaining. The Patriots have uncharacteristically struggled in these situations this season but Sunday’s drive shows promising signs for the future.
Since Tom Brady has been the starting quarterback of the Patriots, they have been known for never being out of games. In the last eleven seasons prior to Sunday’s game, Brady had led the Patriots from behind 34 times. But this year that hasn’t been the case. The Patriots have been outscored now in seven of the last eight fourth quarters and two of their three losses have come when leading after three quarters. Offensively they haven’t scored a touchdown in four of their last five fourth quarters.
Late in the fourth quarter Sunday it looked as though that trend would continue. The Patriots received the ball with 4:31 left and a three point lead. But the offense went three and out which included an offensive pass interference penalty on Brandon Lloyd negating a first down and two incomplete passes deep down field.
After a dropped pass forced the Jets into a Nick Folk field goal and Devin McCourty fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Jets took a three point lead with Folk’s second field goal in as many minutes. This gave Brady and the Patriots offense a chance at a game tying or winning drive with 1:42 remaining.
What ensued was Brady taking the Patriots on a drive that reminded Patriots fans of what they were used to seeing from their offense. With a pair of completed passes to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead, the drive spanned 47 yards on just five plays. That set up Stephen Gostkowski for a chance at a game tying field goal. After missing a game winner in week two against the Arizona Cardinals and missing two field goals in week four against the Buffalo Bills, Gostkowski hit a 43-yard kick to send the game into overtime.
In overtime Brady seemed more at ease leading the Patriots on a 12 play, 54 yard drive that set up a Gostkowski 48-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 29-26 lead. While that field goal and a Patriots fumble recovery on the Jets ensuing drive won the game, the Patriots late fourth quarter drive is a good sign for the remainder of the season.
Late winning drives have been a trademark of the Patriots. With Brady at the helm, the Patriots have won two of their three Super Bowls in that fashion. But the team has struggled late in games this season. After it looked as though that would be the case again Sunday, Brady led his team on two scoring drives leading the Patriots to their fourth win of the season and first place in the division. If the two-time NFL MVP can continue to do that, the Patriots season will look much better.