The Patriots won the coin toss in 14 of their 19 games this season, and received the ball after the half 15 times. The one team that won the coin toss and didn't defer was the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau, where they were looking for a quick start to get an early lead on New England.
Belichick coined deferring receipt of the kickoff until after the half because there's value in the opportunity to score before and after the half, a double tap of points, if you will. The Patriots have led the league in scoring right before the half ever since the coin toss rules changed in 2008, and receiving the ball out of half time allows the chance to score 14 straight unanswered points.
In 2014, New England was 12-2 when they won the coin toss, with one loss at Kansas City and one that didn't matter in Week 17 against the Bills- and since that Chiefs game kick-started the entire team, the Patriots have had a pretty strong net positive when they win the coin toss.
There were just two defensive scores before the half this past season, and both were by the Patriots. One was a blocked kick returned by Chandler Jones, while the other was a fumble recovery against the Bears by Rob Ninkovich. The Patriots received the ball after the half in both of those games, so these were the absolutely best possible scenarios.
That Bears game was a disaster for Chicago. The Patriots scored three times before the half, received the 2nd half kick off and scored again. It started with a routine touchdown to Rob Gronkowski with 1:55 left in the half, followed by a forced three and out by the Patriots. Julian Edelman took the punt 42 yards so the Patriots started the next drive on the Bears 9 yard line with 1:11 left on the clock. One pass to Brandon LaFell later, and the Patriots scored again.
On the ensuing Bears drive, with 1:07 on the clock, a Dont'a Hightower and Zach Moore strip sack resulted in a Rob Ninkovich recovery for a touchdown and, in under 50 seconds, the Patriots had scored three times before the half.
This is all great. The icing on top was the completion of the double tap with the the absolutely absurd Rob Gronkowski touchdown catch and run to open the second half. That's four straight unanswered drives in a four minute span of game time.
The Patriots had 16 scoring plays after the 2 minute warning, which is exactly what Bill Belichick wants. The Steelers (12), and the Broncos and Colts (11) scored a bunch before the half as well. It's what the good teams do and it's clearly a strategy to not allow the opposition time to respond before the half.
Unfortunately, that's not how it's played out for the Patriots. In addition to leading the league in scoring before the half, they also rank tied for 3rd in most points allowed on defense with 44 points, behind only the Bears (66) and Jets (58). The Patriots are tied with the Falcons, Jaguars, and Browns. These five comparables are not with whom New England wants to be associated.
The Patriots allowed five touchdowns and three field goals before the half, with two of the field goals coming against the Jets.
Of the touchdowns, all five have come from really sloppy play, and all came after the Bye Week.
1) Week 11 vs the Colts. Tom Brady throws an interception on his own 17 yard line with 1:25 left in the half. This is not considered a "third down arm punt" because he's not Andrew Luck. The Colts score on the short field in three plays. Poor offensive play kept Indianapolis in the game for the first half.
2) Week 13 vs the Packers. Aaron Rodgers has the play near mid-field with 23 seconds left in the half on 3rd and 2. He hits Jordy Nelson on Darrelle Revis for a 45 yard touchdown catch and run. Devin McCourty over-commits his coverage and can't recover. Bad situational football that cost the Patriots a possible win.
3) Week 15 vs the Dolphins. The Patriots run the ball three times with 40 seconds left in the half to use up all of Miami's time outs. New England punts to Jarvis Landry, who returns it 32 yards to the Patriots 32 yard line with 11 seconds left. Ryan Tannehill needs just one play and throws a beauty to Mike Wallace in the end zone who catches the ball with one hand over Malcolm Butler. Wallace arguably doesn't control the football as he rolls out of bounds, but it doesn't matter.
4) Divisional Round vs the Ravens. The Patriots have the ball on their own 35 yard line with 1:11 left in the half in a 14-14 game. Tom Brady underthrows Rob Gronkowski and in intercepted. The Ravens pass seven times in a row, including a 20-yard pass interference call against Revis, and end up in the end zone right before the half. The Patriots missed and opportunity for a double tap since they were receiving the ball after the half. Instead, the Ravens forced a three-and-out and scored themselves to build a 14 point lead around halftime.
5) Super Bowl vs the Seahawks. The Patriots scored with 31 seconds left in the half, which is great. However, the defense allowed an 80 yard drive in in 25 seconds, where the defense played horrible situational football. There's zero reason for Logan Ryan not to play tight coverage and, worst case scenario, get called for defensive pass interference. The Seahawks received the kickoff after the half and turned it into a field goal, meaning the Seahawks got the double tap in the biggest game of the season.
If there's one thing the Patriots great at, it's coaching situational football so you can be certain that Bill Belichick will give defensive play prior to the half extra focus heading into 2015. New England is outstanding at taking advantage of opportunities before and after the half, so if the defense can improve their play, then the Patriots can be in position to take their play to new heights.