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The Patriots Defer to the Second Half With Great Results

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The Patriots have changed the league by introducing the concept of deferring the opening kickoff to the second half. It's been paying off.

Mike Ehrmann

The Patriots have deferred the opening kick off ever since Week 1 of the 2008 season. It's a decision that allows the Patriots to try and close out the first half with points and then open up the second half of the game with a positive drive. The hope is for New England to post 14 points and dictate how the opposing teams call their plays later in the game- hopefully they'll have to start passing to catch up.

There was a rule change prior to the 2008 season that allowed teams to defer to the second half, one that the Patriots quickly adopted. Between 2008 and the 2014 season, the percentage of teams that deferred increased from 37.9% in 2008 to 64.8% in 2013.

As it turns out, there are definite benefits. While the Patriots have the second fewest drives starting with less than 3 minutes on the clock in the second quarter, they've led scoring drives on a league leading 46% of their opportunities. Or the fourth fewest drives starting with less than 5 minutes in the half, but a still-league leading 47% scoring rate on drives. They quickly follow that with a league leading number of second half opening drives and 7th ranked percentage of scoring drives.

From a statistical standpoint, the Patriots have roughly a coin flip chance of scoring on either the drive ending the half, or the drive opening the half. Playing the odds, the team has a roughly 20% chance at scoring on both drives, or a roughly 70% chance they'll score at all.

The Patriots have managed to receive the ball in the second nearly 60% of the time since 2012 and have also had a closing half drive in roughly 75% of the games. New England's decision to defer is great for controlling the game. By deferring to the second half, the Patriots are receiving a 70% chance to dictate how the opposing team will play during the second half.