The New England Patriots have scored just seven points in the first half of their past two games, trailing at halftime by a combined score of 41-7 against the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. The slow starts have been offset by scorching second halves, as the Patriots have mounted consecutive comebacks with 61 points in the second half against Houston and Denver, pushing their record to 9-3.
Following a come-from-behind 34-31 victory Sunday against Houston, the Patriots weren't making any excuses or hiding behind their sluggish beginnings.
"We're not playing well enough, we're not coaching well enough," coach Bill Belichick said of the first half. "We're not doing a good enough job in any area, from opening kickoff, from the defense to the offense, nothing's good enough. We've got to do a better job coaching, we've got to do a better job preparing, we've got to do a better job executing."
A week ago against Denver, turnovers plagued the Patriots, as three first-quarter fumbles resulted in a lightning-quick deficit. There was just one turnover on Sunday, but quarterback Tom Brady noted that the team once again missed opportunities in the first half, just as the Patriots felt they had done against the Broncos.
"I wish we could start faster, put the foot on the gas pedal the whole way, but we just got behind a little bit, played a lot better in the second half," Brady said. "We still had plenty of chances to convert more. We've got to find a way to keep moving the ball, getting the ball in the end zone, but a lot of guys made some really big plays."
He added that slow starts are something the Patriots must avoid going forward.
"I've got to watch the tape and figure it out," Brady replied when asked what accounted for the slow start on Sunday. "But just what we're doing is not good enough, and we can't keep getting behind because you've got to play too well in the second half to overcome."
Seemingly with the flip of a switch, the Patriots have turned their fortunes around in the second half. They've scored touchdowns on their first two second-half possessions in three straight games, and on Sunday they generated a total of 27 points on their first five drives after halftime.
Belichick alluded to the fact that they always evaluate and implement adjustments during the 12-minute halftime, something Brady pointed to as the difference-maker.
"Our coaches do a great job of getting to the adjustments that we make because you go through the first half and you don't produce much at all, and then coaches come in at halftime and say these are the things we're going to have to do to move the ball," he said. "And then we started it with a great drive there to start the [third] quarter and then scored again, scored again. It was just, it was really a great way for us to play offense."