Patriots coach Bill Belichick often talks about making one play to stop the opponent’s momentum, and New England couldn’t do it in the second quarter. The Patriots led 3-0 after the first quarter before the Broncos scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter. Breakdowns in the secondary in the passing and running games resulted in big plays for the Broncos –- a 72-yard pass to Rod Smith and a 70-yard run by Tatum Bell. Credit Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer for beating the Patriots with his arm, as surely, the Patriots made stopping Denver’s running game the top priority.
In turn, the Patriots couldn’t get enough going on offense as they threw the ball on nine of 11 plays on their third, fourth and fifth drives. That’s when the game started slipping away. Denver really brought the pressure, realizing the Patriots –- without Corey Dillon –- weren’t a threat to run.
Things hit a low on the final play of the half, with offensive guard Logan Mankins getting ejected on Adam Vinatieri’s missed field goal attempt. The loss of composure was un-Patriot-like. Look for Russ Hochstein to fill the void at left guard.