Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/24/12
It is no secret to anyone that has seen the Patriots play this season that they are struggling when it comes to closing out games.  No lead has seemed safe against the porous secondary that is currently fielded by Belichick and Company, despite the fact that New England has spent seven first or second round picks on defensive backs over the past five years.  Because of the defensive failure in Foxboro, it has become all the more important that Tom Brady and Company be able to control the ball and run out the clock late in games.  A task, that at least to this point in the season, that has been beyond the Patriot's abilities on several occasions.  When the numbers are examined, it is revealed that the Patriot's woes are directly related to the play of star quarterback Tom Brady. Fourth Quarter in Wins ATTCOMPPCTYARDSYPATDINTRATALL 4TH QUARTER PLAYS192479.22169.020131.9ONLY 4TH QUARTER DRIVES1220601678.410103.5 Above you see Brady's numbers in the fourth quarter of the Patriots four wins.  the top row are his numbers for all 4th quarter plays including those that were the extension of a possession that began in the third quarter. The bottom row are his numbers on drives that were wholly contained within the quarter.  While there is not a huge variance, there is a definite downward tick in Brady's stats after the fourth quarter begins, when compared to the numbers when drive extensions are included. Lets look at Brady's performance in the Patriot's losses: Fourth Quarter in Losses ATTCOMPPCTYARDSYPATDINTRATALL 4TH QUARTER PLAYS274362.82836.61179.9ONLY 4TH QUARTER DRIVES213953.82275.81079.8The figure that jumps out the most has to be Brady's passer rating in New England's defeats.  Brady also sees his yards per attempt plummet form 8.4 to 5.8 on drives that began inside of the fourth.  The argument that defenses are taking away the deep ball because the Patriots are playing from behind does not hold water, as in two of their losses New England has had leads of 6 and 10 points when the fourth quarters began, which swelled to 9 and 13 respectively.  Only against Arizona did the Patriots enter the final frame trailing.  The overall fourth quarter picture of Brady's performance is actually not too bad, but he has played so well in their wins, that the numbers dont accurately portray how up and down the quarterbacks late game performances have been. Total Fourth Quarter NumbersATTCOMPPCTYARDSYPATDINTRAT466768.74997.43199.0 As bad as Brady has been in the fourth quarter, he has remarkably played worse in all other quarters he has played this season (when using passer rating as your measure). All Other QuartersATTCOMPPCTYARDSYPATDINTRAT1402187.416057.49296.2So what can we learn form these numbers?  Well, clearly something happens to Brady once the game enters the fourth quarter.  Whether this is because of a failing of his own, or a result of adjustments made by the opposing defenses can both be argued.  But its not just Brady that has suffered in the final frame of the game.  Take a look at New England's rushing yards in their wins versus their losses: Patriots 4th Quarter Rushing CARYARDSAVGTDFUMIN WINS411784.321IN LOSSES16231.400TOTAL572013.521 WOW.  Clearly in the Pats' losses, they have been unable to run the ball in the fourth quarter.  Their meager average of 1.4 yards per carry is pathetic.  Given that two of those losses came against teams they were leading late in the game, their inablity to move the ball on the ground factors in even heavier when dividing up the blame pie.  But what about their fourth quarter rushing versus all other quarters played? 4th Quarter VS Quarters 1-3 CARYARDSAVGTDFUMQ4572013.521Q1-31918444.486 One would expect that the Patriots carries would if anything, skew more towards the fourth quarter, given the fact that they have lead late in all but 2 of their games.  Of the 248 rushing plays that have been run by the Patriots, only 23% have come in the fourth quarter, when New England should be playing to protect their lead.  So what does all this mean?  To me, it signifies that Brady, as well as the New England coaching staff are to blame for the Patriots late game woes.  Brady has to play better in the fourth quarter, and given the freedom he has to check down at the line, it can be asked if the lack of late game rushing is a direct result of Brady's hot reads at the line of scrimmage.  If that is the case, late game play calling duties should be re-evaluated, and if necessary, restraints put on Brady.  But if Brady is running a majority of the plays as called, one has to wonder what is going through the minds of Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick when it comes to play calling.  Whichever the case may be, New England needs to find answers sooner than later if they want to remain relevant in a crowded AFC.
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