The next day, I saw this awesome breakdown on Reddit.
It is a run down of all of the Patriots game winning defensive stops. Basically this looks at the Patriots defense when placed in your typical "clutch" situation. Game on the line. All of the below are chances the opposing offense had to win or tie the game on a final possession, but the Patriots defense stopped them.
Game Winning DefenseVia Hensah on Reddit
Up 3 Pats go for it on 4th and 1 at their own 49 but come up short. With 1:55 left San Diego only manages 15 yards and misses game tying FG attempt with 22 seconds left
- At San Diego
D holds the Ravens scoreless for 3 possessions in OT, including two 3 And Outs before Pats win it with FG
- Vs Baltimore
Trailing by 8, ball on their own 38 with 2:58 to play, Fitzpatrick throws INT to Meriweather on first play of drive. Pats able to run out the clock.
- Vs Buff
Already in FG range (at the NE 24) stupid Manning throws INT to James Sanders with 31 seconds left. Cunningham's pass rush applied quick pressure and forced the mistake.
- Vs Ind
Down 4 and starting at their own 43 with 4:22 left GB managed to get to the NE 15. But as the clock hit 0:00 Tully Banta-Cain sacked Flynn knocking the ball loose and Wilfork pounced on it sealing the win.
- Vs Green Bay
Trailing by 7 with 6:30 left Washing picks off Brady at their own 20. They march all the way to the New England 15 but Mayo picks off Grossman to end it.
- At Wash
Sterling Moore breaks up 2 passes in the final moments and the ghost of Myra Kraft pushes game tying FG attempt wide and the Patriots advanced to their 7th Super Bowl
- Vs Balt (AFC Championship)
They ended up losing this game but it should have been the most improbable comeback in Patriots history. Down 2 and unable to stop the clock, the Cards simply had to run one more play and punt for an almost assured victory. However Spikes popped the ball loose and the Pats recovered at the 30. The rest - should have been history.
- Vs Arizona
Having managed a FG on their first possession of OT, New England left the Jets a chance to win or extend the game on their drive. But Cunningham and Ninko combined on a strip sack fumble which Ninko also recovered to end the game.
- Vs Jets
McCourty picks Fitz in the end zone to preserve the Pats 7th straight Division win.
- Vs Bills
Obviously, my first thought after reading the above was, "What about all the times they didn't stop them?" Maybe it's the cynical Boston fan in me, but I was expecting there to be a ton more examples of the Patriots defense not coming through in the clutch.
This wasn't the case. What I looked at below were opposing offensive drives at the end of games that resulted in a Patriots loss. Going back to the past three seasons just as Hensah does above.
Game Losing DefenseVia me:
With New York leading 28-14, Tom Brady fumbles and gives the Jets the ball at their own 41 yard line with 4:06 left to play. The Patriots defense gives up a fourth down conversion allowing the Jets to run out the clock and seal the victory.
- @ NY Jets
Tom Brady leads a late offensive drive to tie the game at 31 with a touchdown pass to Welker. The Buffalo offense takes the field with 3:25 to go and in only three plays (29 yards, 12 yards, 39 yards) they move into position to kick the game winning field goal from the 10 yard line.
- @ Buffalo
Eli Manning gets the ball back with 1:36 to go, needing only a field goal to tie. He drives 80 yards for the go ahead touchdown highlighted by a 28 yard pass down the middle to tight end Jake Ballard.
- vs NY Giants
With 3:46 left, Eli Manning drives 88 yards for the game winning score.
- vs NY Giants (Superbowl)
The Patriots offense can't execute their four minute offense, giving Baltimore the ball back with 1:55 to play, trailing by two. The Patriots allow the Ravens to go 45 yards before a key pass interference by Devin McCourty gives the Ravens the ball in chip shot field goal range for the game winner.
- @ Baltimore:
The Seahawks get the ball with 2:38 to play in the fourth quarter needing a touchdown to win. They start with good field position at their own 43 and only need four plays to complete the long game winning bomb to Sidney Rice.
- @ Seattle:
So, what's the takeaway here? The Patriots defense might be more clutch than you think.
Out of 16 games where the Patriots defense faced a "do or die" situation, the defense came up with a stop or turnover 10 times. That's 62.5% of the time.
That's right. That's not that bad.
Also of note is that of the games where the Patriots defense failed in those situations, four of the six were on the road. With one game being on a neutral field in the Super Bowl (though it was in Indy, so I think it was probably a little hostile).
In hindsight, this probably shouldn't be that surprising. Especially considering the Patriots' crazy winning percentage (They've won 80.5% of their games the last three years).
On the flip side, if you look at just the past two years, you'll see that it's about dead even as far as defensive stops and defensive lapses. Either way, the defense isn't as bad in the clutch as you would assume.