FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing some halftime thoughts with the Patriots leading the Broncos, 17-7, at halftime:
This looks like another one of those classic Brady-Manning games, where the margin for error is thin and the possessions are limited (both teams had four in first half). So you have to make every opportunity count.
What a treat.
Both quarterbacks have been in command, orchestrating their attacks with precision and poise. One play, in particular, highlighted this with Tom Brady. It came on the Patriots’ second touchdown drive when he looked in the direction of receiver Brandon Lloyd before the snap, gave him a hand signal, and Lloyd adjusted his route to the inner part of the field and the two connected for a 15-yard gain.
Sweet stuff, and a play that spotlighted some of the mastery we’ve been watching from Brady (17-of-20 for 165 yards, TD). He has played clean, which is what you have to do in this type of game.
Overall, it hasn’t all been perfect -- the Patriots' running game couldn't punch it in on a solid end-of-second-quarter drive as they settled for a field goal -- but the 13th career duel between Brady and Peyton Manning hasn’t disappointed.
On the disappointing side for the Patriots, cornerback Devin McCourty’s pass interference penalty in the end zone set up the Broncos’ first touchdown. Much of New England likely was saying the same thing, “Why not turn around for the ball?”
The pass coverage out of the initial nickel defense struggled, and a personnel adjustment -- rookie Alfonzo Dennard in for Sterling Moore -- helped produce a spark with a third-down stop in the second quarter. Dennard, the seventh-round pick out of Nebraska, was credited with a pass breakup on the third-down stop.
A few other thoughts: The Patriots only have one challenge remaining after Bill Belichick unsuccessfully challenged the spot on a third-down run at the end of the first quarter. … Wes Welker has been immense. … The Brady-to-Lloyd connection reached a new level in the first 30 minutes with the Patriots using an up-tempo no huddle. … Don’t write off Danny Woodhead just yet; he’s provided a spark today. … The base 2-TE offense vs. the Broncos’ nickel defense has been the matchup within the matchup, and the Patriots are running enough to strike the balance they need.
The Patriots get the ball to start the second half.