Twenty-Five days to the Hall of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the 2019 season. Today we look at quarters or more specifically teams that win or lose in the fourth or fifth quarter.
There were 84 games with lead changes after the start of the fourth quarter in which the team that went ahead won which amounted to 33% of all games played.
The Saints had the most wins in these games with seven and they lost zero games due to a fourth quarter lead change. The Packers lost the most games due to a fourth quarter lead change with five.
The Saints had the best differential (wins-losses) of these games at +7. The next best teams of the Cowboys and Titans had a differential of +4. Both the Cowboys and the Titans only lost one game in 2018 due to a lead change after the start of the fourth quarter. The teams with the worst differential were at -3 and were the 49ers, Falcons, Jaguars, Jets and Packers.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is second all-time in game winning drives with 48 and only six behind first place Peyton Manning. In his game winning drive against the Browns the Saints took over at their 25 with 1:16 remaining. He hist a deep pass to Ted Ginn for 42 yards on the second down. They kick a field goal to win. In the Steelers win the Saints take over at the Steeler 46 with 4:06 remaining and down by 4. Brees complete 6 of ten passes including a deep one to Ted Ginn for 25 yards. He hits Michael Thomas for two yards and the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 remaining.
Another team that does well in crunch time is the Titans. They have been tied for second each of the last two years in number of games they won with a fourth quarter lead change. Over the last two seasons the Titans are tie with the Saints with 10 games they won after a 4th quarter lead change.
The Titans have two key crunch time players in quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Derrick Henry. Mariota can beat you with the pass or he can scramble. In game changing drives against the Eagles he ran for a total of 32 yards and against the Jets for a total of 38 yards. In OT against the Eagles down by three with 4:51 left on 4th and 15 he completed a deep pass to Taywan Taylor for 19 yards. On that drive he ran for 24 yards, completed 5 of 12 passes, and drove the team 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and eating up all but 17 seconds of the 6:19 that was on the clock.
In three of the five game winning drives Derrick Henry played a large role. In the Houston game he rushed for 20 of the 62 yards that setup the go-ahead field goal. In the Jaguars game he rushed for 33 of the 65 yards that set up that go-ahead field goal. Then in the Redskins game he rushed for 33 of the 40 yards that scored the go-ahead touchdown. This is from Henry’s 2016 draft profile on nfl.com – “Rarely fatigues and wears down defenses as game goes on. Had 29.6 percent of his explosive carries come in the fourth quarter. ”
The Falcons and the Bills had the most games where they took the lead during a fourth quarter lead change and wound up losing the game. They each had three games in which that happened.
The Vikings were the only team that did not have a lead change either way after the start of the fourth quarter. You could have turned off the Viking games after the 3rd quarter ended.
A very cool site to look at these scenarios and the query I used is Pro Football Reference.