The New England Patriots won the opening coin toss and elected to receive the ball.
That is not a typo. They did not defer. They received the opening kick. That was the start of the Patriots coaches overthinking the entire first half.
The Denver Broncos offense was extremely simple on tape. Quarterback Peyton Manning can't throw deep passes consistently; he's able to hit passes in the middle of the field and timing passes on the sidelines.
So the Patriots opened up with soft coverage over the top, with cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan sitting seven or eight yards on top of the Broncos receivers. Manning was all-too-happy to connect on timing comeback routes while the Patriots defensive backs were aligned too far away from the receiver to make a play. It was a dumb decision by the coaches.
And then the Broncos offensive personnel isn't too confusing, either. They use wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and then tight end Owen Daniels. They'll use one of Ronnie Hillman or C.J. Anderson on every snap. They have some depth that rotates in that fifth spot, with tight ends Vernon Davis and Virgil Green and wide receivers Bennie Fowler and Jordan Norwood.
But Daniels is the clear-cut favorite tight end in the offense, so most would expect the Patriots to match safety Patrick Chung in coverage.
You'd be wrong. The Broncos scored with two touchdown passes to Daniels over linebacker Jamie Collins.
And then the Patriots offensive decisions have been extremely questionable. The Broncos have one of the best defensive fronts in football. Why the heck do the Patriots have ten rushes in the first half?
Denver has also dedicated their defensive resources to rushing just three or four, while dropping two or three in coverage of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. The Broncos are using two deep safeties to eliminate the seams and to put the defenders in the best position to take away yards after the catch.
The Patriots offense has been pretty unimaginative as quarterback Tom Brady has been battered on every snap. No Patriots receiver has more than two receptions and New England really needs to find a way to get Edelman and Gronkowski involved, or at least take advantage of the numbers game in other areas.
New England is starting wide receiver Keshawn Martin over Brandon LaFell. They haven't really been using tight end Michael Williams as an extra blocker. This is an offense that is fairly unfamiliar to the Patriots and it's getting unwrapped in the AFC Championship Game.
Coaches Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Matt Patricia need to stop overthinking this game. The second half starts now.
Edit: Belichick wanted to add one more new factor for the second half:
BB switched to the 2015 Gray Nike Hoodie. First time he's worn gray this year.— Mike Dussault (@PatsPropaganda) January 24, 2016