On Sunday the New England Patriots attempted to continue their winning ways following their bye week. After their most complete performance of the season against the St. Louis Rams two week prior the Patriots were expected to have little trouble with the Buffalo Bills. But that wasn’t the case. A valiant effort by Buffalo came just short as the Patriots barely held on but the story will once again be the inefficiency of the offense in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots inability to complete games in the fourth quarter has resulted in multiple losses this year. That problem occurred again Sunday. The Patriots led the whole game and went into the fourth quarter with a 31-24 lead. But the fourth quarter offensive woes crept up on the Patriots once again.
Early in the fourth quarter the Patriots started a drive that began at their own 20-yard line and ended at the Buffalo 30 with a Stephen Gostkowski 48-yard field goal. After the Patriots defense forced a fumble at their own 1-yard line, the offense came on with an opportunity to melt the clock. But instead of running the ball with Stevan Ridley, Tom Brady threw three incomplete passes. Throwing once to Deion Branch and twice to Wes Welker, the three-and-out gave the ball right back to the Bills.
Even with the struggles earlier in the quarter, the Patriots offense still had one more opportunity to put the game away. During a drive that started at their own 32-yard line, the Patriots drove 66 yards to the Buffalo 2-yard line and looked to be ready to end the game. But a two yard loss on a pass to Ridley and a false start backed the Patriots up to the 9-yard line. On second down Brady was nearly sacked by Mario Williams but Nate Solder kept him upright before the two-time MVP missed an open Branch in the end zone. The failed opportunity resulted in a short field goal by Gostkowski giving the Patriots just a six point lead with 2:10 remaining.
Luckily for the Patriots offense the defense was able to hold on and seal the 37-31 win but the offensive problems in the fourth quarter won’t go unnoticed. The Patriots have now failed to score a touchdown in seven of their ten games. Three of those games have resulted in losses by less than a touchdown and the two wins were both by less than a touchdown. The Patriots got away with the win Sunday but they may not be as lucky next time.