The first two quarters of Super Bowl 52 are in the books and the New England Patriots 22-12 against the Philadelphia Eagles after a half that saw New England play sloppy football in all three phases of the game.
New England won the coin toss and opted to defer, kicking the football away to open the game. Philadelphia's offense started the game well and was able to gain considerable yards against the Patriots offense while converting two third down attempts. However, after over seven minutes, the drive stalled in the red zone on a pass breakup by cornerback Eric Rowe and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
On came Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. The unit answered the Eagles' 67-yard drive with a 67-yard series of their own. And just like Philadelphia's opening possession, New England's also ended with a field goal after the team failed to convert a third down inside the 10-yard line. Stephen Gostkowski's 26-yard kick split the uprights and the game was tied at three.
The tie was short-lived as it took the Eagles only three plays to get from their own 23-yard line to the end zone. New England's defense gave up two big plays on the series, the second of which a touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Alshon Jefferey. Rookie kicker Jake Elliott, however, missed the ensuing extra point and the Patriots only found themselves in a six-point hole.
New England answered with a promising-looking drive of its own. However, inside the Eagles' 10-yard line, the team failed to convert a third down before Gostkowski saw a field goal attempt bounce off the upright after a bad snap and hold. The Patriots defense were forced onto the field again but delivered its best series of the game so far and held the Eagles to a three-and-out.
However, New England's next drive did not go any better: While the team opened with a 23-yard completion to Brandin Cooks, the team lost the wide receiver to a head injury in the process – a brutal blow to the offense. After the injury timeout, the Patriots were unable to move the football any further and failed to convert a 4th down attempt.
Philadelphia took advantage of the solid field position and drove for its second touchdown, a 21-yard scoring run by ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount. The NFC champions decided to go for two but failed and New England was down “only” 12 points – 15-3. The deficit was cut to nine on the ensuing drive: Thanks to a long screen play by Rex Burkhead, the Patriots were able to move into field goal range again.
However, once again New England failed to advance much further and had to settle for a kick. Gostkowski's 45-yard attempt sailed through and the Patriots were down 15-6. Momentum finally continued to momentarily shift further towards New England on the next series: The Patriots drove 90 yards in seven plays, capped by a 26-yard touchdown run by James White.
With a little over two minutes left in the second quarter, the Patriots defense was needed to deliver a stop but failed to do so. Instead, the unit allowed the Eagles to score another touchdown and take a 22-12 lead into halftime. New England will receive the second half kickoff.
Overall, the Patriots' first half was marked by mistakes in all three phases of the game. If the team cannot figure out how to prevent big plays on defense or how to turn good field position into points, it is going to be a long night.