Brady silences critics with clutch finish

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After last week’s loss to the Seahawks, much was made of the team’s inability to close out opponents. In particular, the struggles of Tom Brady were spotlighted.

It was noted in this ESPN Stats & Information piece that in all three of the Patriots’ losses, Brady had the ball in his hands with less than three minutes to go and the chance to either seal the victory or produce a comeback. And in all three, he and the Pats failed to produce.

We looked back further and found that Brady’s Total QBR with a one-score lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter was just 15.0 since 2009, a mark that was the fifth-worst in the NFL.

That trend looked like it was going to continue in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the New York Jets. After the Jets scored to cut the deficit to 23-20, Brady and the Pats took over at their own 21 with 5:44 remaining and a chance to run down the clock and seal the victory.

Instead, the drive started with an offensive interference penalty, an incomplete pass, a 4-yard run, another incompletion and a punt. The Patriots netted negative-six yards and ran just 1:25 off the clock.

“Well, it was first and 10 and then we got a pass interference, and then it’s first and 20 and then it’s incomplete and then it’s a run and then its third and 16. So that's not the way to play offensive football,” Brady said. “I don't think there’s going to be a high percentage playing that way. We can’t really put ourselves in that situation. We’ve all got to do a better job executing our plays. There’s no easy way out. It's not like there’s a magic, special play that you save for those situations. It’s about doing your job and doing a better job of it.”

The Jets responded with a six-play drive that resulted in a game-tying field goal, then kicked another field goal after Devin McCourty fumbled the ensuing kickoff to take a 26-23 lead.

That was when Brady started to show some of his old clutch spark. After taking over at his own 21, he completed four of five passes for 54 yards in the final 1:37 in hurry-up mode to put Stephen Gostkowski in position to kick the game-tying field goal as time expired.

To open overtime, he led the Patriots on a 12-play 54 yard drive for what turned out to be the game-winning field goal.

“We executed better (on those final two drives),” Brady said. “I think that’s what it is. It really wasn’t our best day of execution in terms of assignments we have to nail those things down. A lot of those inconsistencies, you don’t score points, and we didn’t score as many as we needed to. And those last couple of drives, we moved the ball better. I wouldn’t say they were great drives, but they were good enough.”

In total, he was 9 of 14 for 95 yards, 6 first downs and a total QBR of 73.0 in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime, a vast improvement over the 2-of-7 performance he produced in the final five minutes of the loss to the Seahawks.