The Patriots had a chance to put the Broncos away early, and let them stick around by either not capitalizing (Tom Brady overthrow of Randy Moss for a touchdown) or taking penalties (Logan Mankins unsportsmanlike conduct penalty taking them out of field-goal range).
A terrific two-minute drive at the end of the half -- in which Tom Brady's ability to keep plays alive with his feet was remarkable -- helped them recapture momentum after the Broncos closed to 10-7.
The chess match has come as advertised, with both teams using timeouts to regroup and get the personnel they need on the field. This is a great coaching battle, with the Broncos bringing out the Wildcat early to keep the Patriots defense off balance.
One challenge for the Patriots going forward will be getting Randy Moss the ball. The Broncos are rolling safety help over the top of him consistently. The Patriots are generally lining him up away from Champ Bailey's side, so that is the one of the games within the game: The Broncos are double covering Moss on the offensive left side of the field, and Bailey is erasing the other side. So the Patriots are working the middle of the field with Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and their tight ends and backs.
From a game management standpoint, the Broncos used two challenges, and because one was not successful, they are out of challenges for the rest of the game. That was a mistake by Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who challenged a 3-yard pass and cost himself to potentially a challenge a more important play later in the game.
Some credit should go to the Broncos as well, for making plays on both sides of the ball -- they were particularly impressive on their long touchdown drive and in stopping the Patriots on third-and-1. They are a resilient team.
The Patriots get the ball to start the second half.