Whatever happened to the New England Patriots protecting leads, winning close games and putting away opponents when the opportunity presents itself?
A 3-3 record through six weeks is one thing, but the Patriots' sudden inability to come through in the clutch is becoming an alarming issue.
The Patriots have lost three games this year by a combined four points, which is almost unheard of in the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era. In fact, New England has now lost seven games since 2009 in which it held the lead with under five minutes remaining in regulation, tied for third most in the NFL.
If you really want to get analytical, Brady has a Total QBR score of 15.00 with a one-score lead in the final five minutes of regulation since 2009, which is fifth worst among NFL quarterbacks. Total QBR is a complex statistic that measures the importance of each throw a quarterback makes in relation to the current game situation. In layman's terms, Brady has been uncharacteristically bad in late-game situations in recent years, which is alarming for a quarterback who typically thrives under pressure.
Brady made two bad plays Sunday. The first resulted in an intentional-grounding penalty at the end of the half at Seattle's 3-yard line, costing the Patriots a chance to score before the break. The other was a fourth-quarter interception in the Seahawks end zone.
Time to panic yet?
"We talk about playing a good 60 minutes of football, and we just seem to come up a little bit short," wide receiver Wes Welker said. "These close games like this, especially where we have the lead in the fourth quarter, you have to be able to put it away. We just weren't able to do that."
Added wide receiver Deion Branch: "It starts on the practice field with the stuff that we have to work on."
No one has the answer yet, but it's obvious the Patriots need to close out games better than they have this season. The losses to Baltimore and Seattle stand out the most. With the Jets coming to town this week, it becomes another huge point of emphasis.
"I think we just need to do a better job when it counts," Brady said. "We moved the ball up and down the field, a lot of guys were making plays, a lot of guys made some really great plays, and we had some really good opportunities to score points.
"The interception in the end zone on the throw to Wes (Welker), we are driving the ball and I throw an interception up the seam. I make a play at the end of the half to squander three points, and you lose by one point, and there are a lot of things we could have done better to not be in that situation. We have to do a better job, and I have to do a better job."