Failed 3rd-and-1 play comes back to bite Pats

Failed 3rd-and-1 play comes back to bite Pats
November 19, 2013, 3:00 am
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CHARLOTTE -- The onslaught of chaos, fascinating football, celebration and teeth-gnashing that occurred in the final six minutes and 26 seconds of play Monday night at Bank of America Stadium was all traceable back to the play that went down with 6:42 remaining.
With the scored tied, 17-17, the Patriots faced a third-and-1 at the Carolina 8-yard line. On that drive, they’d already run for 5, 1, 0, 3 and 6 yards. On the previous drive, they’d run for 5, 5, 4, 7 and a 1-yard touchdown.
They had everything working, it seemed. Yet with the chance to go up seven points on a team New England had only forced to punt two times all night, the Patriots called a pass that Tom Brady, after some deliberation, was forced to launch out of the end zone.
Debating whether they should have run the ball or thrown the ball is easy in hindsight. But the design of the patterns seemed to leave no outlet options if the end zone targets weren’t available. And while pressure was near Brady, taking a sack at that point wouldn’t have backed New England out of field goal range. He may have been better served trying to create something.
Bottom line, given the efficiency of the Carolina offense on Monday night, (8-for-11 on third down), the failure to get more out of that third-and-1 than a throw out of the end zone seemed bound to bite New England. And it did as the Panthers went down the field after the Patriots field goal and went ahead 24-20.
Asked if he wished he’d done something differently on the play, Brady replied, “I wish we would have converted it. We didn’t execute great. We had an opportunity. That was a big play in the game and we didn’t come up with it. There were a few of those in the game where we make the play and it puts a lot more pressure on them and that was one of the critical ones. Third-and-1s, you have to make, especially on the road. And we’ve lost some close ones on the road. All three of them were pretty close games and we have to find a way to win them.”
A conversion there wouldn’t have guaranteed the touchdown. But it would have chewed more time off the clock at the very least. In the end, it was a play that bit New England and set the stage for all that followed.