It's not often that the New England Patriots look flat. But when that's happened in 2015, they have found ways to respond.
The Patriots beat the Dallas Cowboys, 30-6, at AT&T Stadium to improve to 4-0 on the season. But victory didn't always seem certain, as the Patriots were only winning by a 13-3 score at halftime. Maybe the bye week left them a little rusty. Maybe they weren't executing their game plan to perfection. Maybe they didn't have the right game plan to begin with.
Whatever the case, none of it mattered when the Patriots put the pedal to the metal in the second half.
The Patriots scored 17 second-half points and held the Cowboys to just three points in the second half. There were more quick passes. The offensive line created bigger holes in the running game and better pockets in pass protection. There was more involvement for tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The front seven continued to create suffocating pressure on Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden and continued to plug the gaps in the running game. The coverage continued to allow the short passes and eliminate the long ones.
|Patriots scoring by half|
|2015||First half||Second half|
Basically, anything the Patriots were doing wrong in the first half was suddenly wiped away in the second half, and everything they did right in the first half continued in the final 30 minutes of play.
And make no mistake—they needed those adjustments. Brady had never been sacked five times in a half before the Cowboys accomplished that feat in the first half of Sunday's game. The Patriots then adjusted the game plan to quicker passes that allowed Brady to get the ball out of his hands before the pass rush had a chance to get to the Patriots quarterback.
The result? No sacks in the second half.
Gronkowski was held without a catch in the first half, despite being mostly single-covered by cornerback Byron Jones. Seeing Gronkowski without a catch is like seeing Louis Armstrong without a trumpet. So, it came as no surprise that the Patriots adjusted to get Gronkowski involved in the second half with four catches for 67 yards.
The Patriots didn't have to do much adjusting on defense. They held the Cowboys to just three points in the first half, and the Cowboys had almost no offense at all outside of a 10-play, 47-yard drive for a field goal—a drive that was extended by a defensive holding call on third down that negated a sack by linebacker Jamie Collins.
This has become par for the course with the Patriots over the years.
The above chart is misleading; yes, the Patriots have given up some points in the second half of their games, but that's also been a function of their massive leads headed into the fourth quarter. The Patriots were leading the Buffalo Bills 24-13 headed into the locker room and 37-13 prior to the fourth quarter. A 19-point scoring rally by the Bills made the final score look much closer than the game actually was.
The same could be said of the Patriots' Week 1 victory over the Steelers. The Patriots were ahead 14-3 at halftime and 21-3 before the Steelers scored their first touchdown in the third quarter. Their second touchdown of the game was the final play of the game, with just two seconds remaining in regulation at that point.
The Patriots are playing a dominant brand of football, but they are also coaching at a level that is giving them the ability to put opponents away with their halftime adjustments.