The New England Patriots allowed 13 points in the first half and the defense was livid. They weren’t mad at the offense that turned the ball over to the Texans at the 27-yard line, and they weren’t mad at the special teams unit that fumbled the ball to the Texans at the 12-yard line on consecutive drives.
“Really, we were angry with ourselves,” Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty said. “The first three points they got was a penalty on us that extended a drive on a third-down stop. Then even in the red area we held them to three on a sudden change, and then the touchdown, myself and [FS Duron Harmon], we could have got ourselves in a better defense.
“Going into halftime, we just looked at each other like, ‘We’ve just got to play better. Do what we’re supposed to do and make them earn it.’ We did that, we did a better job of that, but they came and they fought hard. I think they came and tried to play a complete game as a team and we had to battle through some ups and down. But that’s what the playoffs are about, finding a way to win.”
McCourty might be a little hard on himself, too. The Patriots forced five three-and-outs in the first half, and just one in the second half. Sure, Patriots CB Eric Rowe was sloppy when he drew an Unsportsmanlike Conduct flag that negated a third down stop and gave the Texans a fresh set of downs en route to kicking a field goal.
And, yes, Harmon bit hard on the play action and allowed the Texans tight end to be wide open in the corner of the end zone on the touchdown play.
But they had to have been exhausted, right? After the Patriots scored their first touchdown with 9:27 on the clock in the first quarter, the Texans were on offense for almost 13 straight minutes. The Patriots defense was able to rest for just 0:30 of the next 13:38 of game clock.
Needless to say, the Patriots were much more energetic and productive after the extended halftime break.
“We gave up a lot of field position against our defense,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “I thought defensively we hung in there. It would’ve been good to stop them one more time, but a couple of those drives were short drives. They had one long drive in the [first quarter] where they drove it down and kicked a field goal. We had some opportunities to get off the field defensively...penalties and could’ve stopped a couple of more plays and gotten off the field when we had opportunities to do that. I thought we hung in there.”
You will never hear the Patriots talk about problems outside of their control after a game. Defensive players will never point to the offense and vice versa. But the reality is that the Patriots defense just needed their offense to start producing so they weren’t hung out to dry for nearly a quarter’s worth of football.
The offense called just 9 plays over the first quarter and a half of play. The Patriots found a way to maintain possession for a couple minutes at a time in the second half, and the defense capitalized by forcing turnovers and stifling the Texans offense.
The Patriots weren’t terribly different from the first to the second half- but if getting angry helps them intercept the opposing quarterback, then they should be mad more often.