One of the top storylines entering Super Bowl LII is the New England Patriots' past inability to score in the first quarter of title games: During the seven Super Bowls of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, the team has failed to put even a single point on the board. To make matters worse, New England's offense cost its team two points when a safety was called against Brady early in Super Bowl XLVI.
But not all was bad during the combined 105 minutes of first quarter Patriots Super Bowl football in the past 16 years. While the offense typically started slow, the defense was relatively successful. All in all, the unit – from coordinators Romeo Crennel to Dean Pees to Matt Patricia – only gave up a combined 13 points over the last seven Super Bowls. Still a deficit when compared to the offense’s output, but a low enough number to keep the games close.
The 13 points (the above-mentioned safety is not part of the calculation) are broken down as follows: A field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI against the then-St. Louis Rams, a field goal in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants, and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVI also versus New York. Other than on those three occasions, the Patriots did not allow a single point in the first 15 minutes of their Brady/Belichick Super Bowls.
While it ultimately is the most important aspect, the score does not tell the whole story of New England's defensive performance over the first quarter of the team's last seven championship games. A big part of limiting the opponents' early-game output is the Patriots' own opportunism: The team registered nine sacks over the course of its Brady/Belichick initial Super Bowl quarters to go along with two takeaways.
Of course, every game is different. And none of the seven previous Super Bowls has any meaning for this one. Still, the statistics reflect a common theme in all of New England's title game appearances: The offenses on both sides start rather slowly, while the defenses keep the score close. This is no surprising either, as teams tend to open the game rather cautiously.
More often than not, this course of action ultimately worked out in the Patriots' favor. Even though New England's faithful suffered plenty of stress along the way.