The NFL is a fascinating game. Each moment, every inch, every yard has the potential to impact the fate of an entire season, for better or worse.
No contest, we know the most important part of the game lies in crunch time, or as we call it, “The 4th Quarter.” Legendary teams and players are made in these moments, narratives (sadly) are created, and some of the greatest moments in American sports history happen here. Make no mistake, this is where teams have to be near flawless.
So when said teams screw up and blow up, this tends to happen with a lead in the 4th quarter, and game winning drives and comebacks are everywhere as a result.
Fascinated, I researched every team and their efforts of taking back lost 4th quarter leads. Thus, the “Blown 4th Quarter Lead” statistic was born. With this statistic comes a chart, because who doesn’t want to chart vital information such as this?
Now, before I get to the chart itself, I’ll take the time to answer frequent questions I received based on my Blown 4Q Lead research.
Q: “What constitutes a blown 4th quarter lead (4QL)?” A: A blown 4th quarter lead starts from having a lead in the 4th quarter OR entering the 4th quarter. This MUST happen for a blown 4QL to eventually occur. This means no ties entering the 4Q (if a team breaks the tie and never blows the lead).
For example, suppose Team A leads 23-20 over Team B with 13:34 left in the 4th quarter. If Team B scores or makes a field goal, Team A has blown a lead. Both teams can blow a lead in the same game as well. If Team B scores to tie or take the lead in the first play of the 4th quarter, that also counts.
Based on the new overtime rules, blown leads (only on field goals) are also issued here. In other words, they count as well.
Q: “Is it possible to win after blowing a 4th Quarter Lead?” A: Absolutely, and you’ll see that with most teams here. It’s also possible to tie thanks to overtime regulations, though this is very rare.
Q: “Where did you get this data from?” A: The fine people at Pro-Football-Reference.com. The best site for raw NFL statistics, and the best part is they keep adding new (re: cool) features, such as highlighting years players won rings, as well as amounts of receiver targets.
Q: “Why did you make this list begin in 2011 and end in 2014?” A: This 4 year stretch is what I like to call the current era of football. Many legacies began in 2011, and a few followers have mentioned that this list highlights which teams consistently blow leads like it’s their job.
Q: “Does the defense always blow a 4th quarter lead?” A: Good question. The answer is no, though this is usually the case. For example, Matt Schaub’s 2013 pick six against the Seahawks constituted a blown 4th quarter lead by the Texans. The Cowboys blew a 4th quarter lead in 2011 after the Jets blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.
So, this can occasionally vary.
Now to the main event. In this below chart, there will be 3 key stats. The first is obviously the amount of blown 4th quarter leads from 2011-2014. Second, we have the record of teams after they blew a 4th quarter lead. Finally, the Win Percentage, which relates to the percentage of games won after blowing a 4th quarter lead.
Let’s see how your teams did in sustaining 4th quarter leads.
Besides the amount of colors, what stands out to you?
Here are several of my thoughts:
It should come as no surprise that the Cleveland Browns are near the bottom of the list (2-14). This is a team that’s been consistently awful at keeping 4th quarter leads. In fact, their only 2 wins in the last 4 years came in 2014 (vs. Saints and at Falcons). Yikes.
Joining Cleveland are the Detroit Lions, who are the exact same amount of terrible in regards to blown 4QLeads (2-14).
The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers are tied with the most blown 4th quarter leads (19), but Dallas also has the 10th highest win percentage in these situations. Clutch. The 49ers in this instance are 9-9-1, with the 5th highest win percentage at 47.3%. They ALSO have the most wins after blowing a 4QL with 9.
Another reason to hate Jed York for firing Jim Harbaugh.
The New York Giants have a 50% win percentage in these situations, but they’re only team with at least 50% WP to have a quantity in the double digits. That’s very impressive.
The Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens have the same record (7-8), which means the same win percentage. Is Joe Flacco elite?
The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only 2 teams to have never won after blowing a lead in this stretch. While Chicago is 0-5, the Buccaneers might be the worst at trying to recapture a 4th quarter lead as they are an astounding 0-13. Wow.
The Jets, Colts, and Cardinals all are tied for the highest win percentage in these situations, and all 3 teams have had 9 games in which a blown 4QL has occurred.
The Chiefs, Rams, and Bears have the fewest blown 4QL since 2011, with 5 each. It should be ironic then that they are near the bottom in win percentage.
Finally, the Panthers and Bengals (2014), Vikings and Packers (2013), and Rams and 49ers (2012) are the 6 teams that have tied when blowing a 4th quarter lead. That’s 3 games featuring the respective teams.
If you have any thoughts, please send them to me via my Twitter account @KinsleyNFL.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks to @NinersNation for helping edit the 49ers section of the article.