The anticipation for the Patriots game against the Saints, six days before kickoff, is already approaching frenzy. The hype could be even thicker. Monday night’s showdown could have easily been a meeting of two unbeaten teams.
That could be making a leap, but consider: The Patriots have trailed at halftime only once this season, in their opening game against the Buffalo Bills. They faced a 14-10 deficit, which they eventually overcame with an unreal last-minute rally. They’ve led at the break in every game since, even their losses – 9-3 against the Jets in Week 2, 17-7 against the Broncos in Week 5, 24-14 against the Colts in Week 10.
In the games they let slip away, their only three road games, the Patriots’ offense stalled. They scored zero points in the second half against the Jets and Broncos and 10 against the Colts. They scored no points in the third quarter in all of their losses. The disparity is most stark in their losses, but the first half/second half difference has shown itself all year.
“I think after you play as many games as we have that there’s some merit to the numbers that are up there,” Belichick said. “I don’t think that tells the whole story and I don’t think that tells a weekly story. But from a standpoint of production, what you produce, that’s what you’ve produced.”
The Patriots have scored 196 points in first halves and 94 in second halves. Five times this season, the Patriots have not scored a single point in the third quarter – half of their games. Here is the full points scored breakdown, by quarter:
First quarter: 71
Second quarter: 125
Third quarter: 39
Fourth quarter: 55
The numbers are skewed by the 45-point first half against the Titans, which included a 35-point second quarter. Still, the difference is surprising.
“It’s not one particular thing,” said director of player personnel Nick Caserio, who also helps oversee the offense on game days. “It’s a collective thing, whether it’s a route here, a dropped ball here, maybe a missed block. So I think you’re trying to eliminate collectively as a group some of those little things that may cause you to stall a little bit.
“Really, we’ve played OK at different points offensively, so I think the most important thing is being consistent for 60 minutes and finishing the game because you never know when that one play is going to sort of make the difference. Our philosophy in the first half is the same as it is in the second half. It comes down to executing a little bit better in the second half and making sure we are a little more consistent with what we’re doing.”