BREAKDOWN: The Second Quarter Has Been the Key For the Patriots Over the Last Six Seasons

Ian Logue
January 10, 2012 at 11:02am ET

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They say it's not how you start but how you finished, and that's probably why New England's first quarter woes haven't stopped them from going 27-5 over the past two seasons.

They've continued to start games slow this season, having scored just 82 total first quarter points, their 2nd lowest scoring total over the past six seasons.

Starting the game has obviously been an issue, and New England didn't have much success on their opening drives this season.  They started the season out well, scoring touchdowns in each of their first four games on their first possession, but from there they reached the endzone just once in their final twelve games.  Overall they scored five touchdowns, and three field goals during that span (44 total points).

The third quarter hasn't worked out much better.  They opened the second half with the football in every game this year, but scored a touchdown just six times, as well as two field goals (48 total points).  Interestingly enough Brady also threw three of his 12 interceptions on their first possession to start the third quarter.

In 2010, they had about the same amount of success.  They scored a touchdown just six times on their first offensive series, along with one field goal, and one missed field goal (45 total points).  As for the third quarter, they opened the second half with the football eleven times, scored five offensive touchdowns, along with two kickoff returns for a touchdown and two field goals.

Taking a deeper look, the first quarter hasn't exactly been their strong point anyway over the past six seasons.  As a matter of fact, it's actually been one of their lower production quarters in terms of total points dating back to 2006.

They've scored fewer points than any other quarter in three of those years, including this season, 2010 and 2008 (where Brady was sidelined for the season with his knee injury).   It was their 2nd lowest scoring quarter in '07 (134 total points - their highest number of points in that quarter from '05-'11), and their 2nd lowest quarter in '06 (74 total points).

But it hasn't taken them long to get started, because the second quarter has been a completely different story.  The Patriots have seen their most offensive production come in the 2nd quarter in recent years, having scored more points that quarter than any other in every season dating all the way back to 2006.

Here's how the numbers worked out:

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense has seen their most production happen in the second quarter over the last six years. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
2011 Totals By Quarter:

1st QTR: 82 points
2nd QTR: 148 points
3rd QTR: 141 points
4th QTR: 142 points

2010 Totals By Quarter:

1st QTR: 103 points
2nd QTR: 152 points
3rd QTR: 138 points
4th QTR: 122 points

2009 Totals by Quarter:

1st QTR: 95 points
2nd QTR: 184 points
3rd QTR: 74 points
4th QTR: 86 points

2008 Totals by Quarter:

1st QTR: 91 points
2nd QTR: 131 points
3rd QTR: 106 points
4th QTR: 107 points

2007 Totals by Quarter

1st QTR: 134 points
2nd QTR: 199 points
3rd QTR: 104 points
4th QTR: 152 points

2006 Totals by Quarter:

1st QTR: 74 points
2nd QTR: 128 points
3rd QTR: 73 points
4th QTR: 110 points

Obviously part of that may have to do with the fact they've chosen to defer to start the game the majority of the time.  Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN brought up a great point in a recent article about the fact that back in 2008, the league instituted a rule providing the option to defer the decision to kick or receive until the second half.  He points out that New England has deferred all but once since.

They were held scoreless in the first quarter five times this season, and to field goals in three others (two field goals on the road against the Jets, and one field goal each in home games against Dallas and Indianapolis).  They actually went through a span this season where they didn't score a touchdown during the opening quarter in five straight games (games six through ten), their longest drought dating back to 2005.

However, despite starting with the ball in every game this season to start the second half, that hasn't made the third quarter any more productive than any other. The third quarter was their second lowest scoring quarter this year. They were held to just a field goal or less in five of their sixteen games during this season.

It's also been their 2nd lowest scoring quarter in four of the last six seasons (2011, 2009, 2008, 2006), and was their worst of the the four back in 2006.

Overall 2011 was actually one of their more consistent offensive performances over the past six seasons in terms of total points over the final three quarters. They scored 148 in the second, 141 in the third, and 142 in the fourth quarter, which was their 2nd highest point total during that span and the only season where all three of the final quarter totals were separated by less than 10 points.

The only season they finished higher was 2007, which is highlighted by the fact they scored an incredible 199 points during the second quarter. However, they still scored more points this season in the second half than they even did that year.

Now here they are getting ready to take on the Denver Broncos in the Divisional round on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. The last time they took on the Broncos Denver got off to a fast start, scoring on their opening three possessions (two touchdowns and a field goal) to build a 16-7 lead. From there New England exploded for 20 second quarter points en-route to a 41-23 win. It was the most they scored during that quarter all season.

In their final two regular season games against the Bills and Dolphins, they spotted Miami 17 points and Buffalo 21 first quarter points before coming back and winning both games. They ran off 27 unanswered points to beat Miami, and racked up 49 unanswered points for a 49-21 win over the Bills. So they're used to being able to rebound from starting off slow, and Brady said after their most recent win that they just need to execute better heading into the playoffs.

"It's not planned that way," said Brady. "There's no panic. I don't feel like the guys on the sidelines really panic. I just feel like it's really a matter of execution and we started executing better and we put points on the board."

"We just have to continue to get better and have a good week this week and get ready for our toughest game of the year."