By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Among the many changes to the sport Bill Belichick has generated has been the growing trend of teams deferring after winning the opening coin toss. Gone are the days when teams licked their lips at the chance of opening the game with a scoring drive to take an early lead, as the option to delay that chosen possession until the start of the second half has increasingly become in vogue.
That’s in large part due to the way Belichick and Tom Brady have worked to flip games upside-down by scoring on the final possession of the first half and then scoring on the opening possession of the second half — the “dreaded double score,” as it’s come to be known by every broadcaster. If you can pull it off, it’s effective, and so many opposing coaches have opted to defer when they win the opening coin toss — especially when facing the Patriots.
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase made that choice two weeks ago when they faced the Patriots in New England. Gase’s defense actually came up with a stop on that opening drive, but Belichick called for a fake punt, which was successful. The Patriots continued their drive and ended up scoring a touchdown to go up 7-0, and they’d never lose that lead.
On Monday, when speaking with reporters about the importance of not falling behind early to the Patriots, Gase was asked why he’d give the ball to Brady to start the game. His answer was interesting.
“Well, if we take the ball, you know what’s going to happen at the end of the half right? They’re going to have six minutes left, they’re going to use all of the clock, and then they’re going to get the ball [again to start the second half] and we’ll be on the sideline and they’ve got a chance to have two scores without us touching the ball,” Gase said.
It’s fascinating because regardless of how serious or facetious the coach was being (the quote was provided in a transcript, so tone can’t be judged), it provides at least some level of honesty from a coach who’s seen the Patriots flip scoreboards, seemingly in the blink of an eye, too many times.
In fact, the Patriots just did it in Week 12 at Buffalo. Stephen Gostkowski successfully kicked a 39-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in the second quarter, and Rex Burkhead capped off an 11-play, 70-yard drive to open the second half with a one-yard touchdown plunge. In those two possessions, the Patriots turned a 6-3 game into a 16-3 game. That would be more than enough to win.
It was a continuation of a season-long trend for the Patriots, as Gostkowski’s field goal represented the ninth time in 12 games that the Patriots have scored in the final two minutes of the first half this season. The Patriots also lead the NFL with 48 points scored on their opening drive of the second half.
Combine those two factors, and the Patriots’ ability to execute in specific situations really shines. Accordingly, opposing coaches have to adjust — even if that means making the precarious decision to put the ball in Brady’s hands to start a football game.