By: Ian Logue
With the Patriots currently sitting at 9-3, what they’ve been able to accomplish considering their injury and depth issues defensively has been pretty amazing.
They’re still ranked 32nd in average yards given up per game with 412.1, but ranked 13th in points allowed per game with 20.6. The latter stat has been what’s kept their team in each of these games, but there’s one area that they’re going to need to start improving on in the coming weeks if New England plans on advancing deep into the playoffs and contending for a championship.
They need to start finally figuring out a way to close out football games. Despite the fact yesterday’s game wasn’t really ever in doubt, it’s been a big issue that could eventually come back to haunt them.
Jerod Mayo and the Patriots defense have given up 13 fourth quarter touchdowns this season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
The biggest problems for the Patriots this season have come in the fourth quarter, where they’ve allowed 13 of the 27 touchdowns they’ve given up this season. Of those 13, five of those have come on 3rd down, and they’ve given up 4 plays of 12 yards or more, including 3 plays of over 20 yards.
That’s been something that’s been discussed for weeks now, with New England being unable to put together a strong performance defensively in the final quarter. They’ve talked about the fact that it’s a point of emphasis, and Andre Carter told WEEI on Monday that the 21 points they allowed to Indianapolis yesterday was ‘unnacceptable.’
“Granted, it was a win, but overall we just didn’t finish strong,” Carter said during his interview. “Having 21 unanswered points defensively is just unacceptable.”
The offense didn’t do much in the last quarter to help out their defense, which was made up of several guys in Matthew Slater and Nate Jones who were getting snaps on defense in place of guys who were sidelined with injuries. Their inability to sustain a drive on Sunday was one of the main reasons why the Colts managed to make a game of it.
Leading 31-10 in the fourth quarter Brady and the offense went three and out on back-to-back drives before he gave way to Brian Hoyer. The second three and out was frustrating because they had the ball thanks to an incredible leaping interception by Jerod Mayo, and simply couldn’t capitalize on it.
From there Indianapolis put together back-to-back scoring drives. They scored on the ensuing drive after Brady’s final series, and then scored again after Hoyer came in and handed the ball off three times, with Stevan Ridley failing to get them a first down.
Fortunately Indianapolis didn’t get another shot after the Patriots recovered the onside kick, and Brady came back out to kneel on the ball, allowing New England to walk away with their 9th win of the season.
Brady said that after last week’s win over Philadelphia, head coach Bill Belichick emphasized the fact they needed to be better about closing out games.
“He was on us last week about finishing a game,” said Brady. “I think that’s the disappointing part was there was a lot of emphasis that he put into that. And we didn’t really play to that. So, I think that was just the disappointing part. We’ve got to do a better job as players.
Defensively, they’ve started games off fairly well this season. They’ve allowed just one touchdown on the opponent’s opening possession, and just four first quarter touchdowns all season. In the second quarter they’ve allowed just six.
However it’s the second half that’s been a problem. They’ve played well in the third quarter, allowing just four touchdowns. But the 13 in the fourth are glaring, and it’s an area that hopefully we’ll see them improve on during this final stretch of games as they gear up for the postseason.
For now Brady’s happy with where they are after winning their fourth straight game yesterday.
“We’ve won four straight,” said Brady. “We had two pretty tough losses back to back six weeks ago. And then we’ve won four straight. We’re in a good position. We’ve obviously got some huge games ahead.”