Not knowing poop about the Escape I had to go do some research. The Mercury Mariner, Escape and Mazda Tribute are siblings. With that being said my neighbor had a Mariner, that she hated, traded it in on a Compass (4X4) and loves it. A lady at work has a 2WD Tribute, she likes it but is not a car person at all, it's just gets her from point A to point B.
The Ford has rear drum brakes, no skid plates or any off road package pieces. It does have a decent 18:1 ration in 1st gear.
The Patriot has 4 wheel disc brakes, Off road pieces and some after market parts available. It looks more better to me.
There are several forums like JF on the Escape. You can Google them and see what problems they have had on the years that you may be interested in. We can tell you about the Patriot but our knowledge may be limited on the Escape. No, I don't hate Ford (my wife does) my Model A was one of the most fun cars that I ever owned!