It's worth second-guessing Patriots' decision-making at end of first half

Ryan Hannable
December 29, 2019 - 9:52 pm

FOXBOROUGH -- Over the years, the Patriots have been known for the number of times they've scored at the end of first halves.

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In order to do that, they've needed to be a bit aggressive in terms of taking timeouts and trusting both their offense and defense. 

That hasn't exactly happened this year.

It came up again Sunday against Miami when the Patriots stopped the Dolphins on third down with 1:45 remaining at their own 20-yard line. With three timeouts, Bill Belichick opted not to call one, which meant Miami punted with 1:05 on the clock.

Following the punt, the Patriots took over at their own 25-yard line and ran two running plays to go into the half tied at 10 and all three of their timeouts still in their back pocket.

Bill Belichick said afterwards the Patriots would have used one of their timeouts if they picked up a first down, but also did not want to potentially give the ball back to Miami.

"We'd see what kind of field position we got, and then if we could advance the ball, then we'd take them," he said. "But, we didn't want to give the ball back with their timeouts at the end of the half, either."

In the past, there's no question Belichick would have taken a timeout to give the Patriots offense as much time as possible in order to potentially take a lead before halftime. But, Sunday, and this year in particular, Belichick doesn't appear to have as much trust in his offense.

It certainly is an attitude we're not used to seeing.

There's an argument to be made for it being the right decision considering Tom Brady was just 5-for-10 passing at that point and the offense wasn't having a great half. But, the unit had scored on its last two possessions totaling 150 yards.

Calling a timeout with 1:45 remaining would have put more pressure on the Miami punting unit and then given Brady and the Patriots offense plenty of time to potentially get into field goal range. While it wasn't known at the time, the team certainly could have used those potential points at the end. And even if the unit was forced to punt the ball back to Miami, shouldn't there be confidence in the Patriots' defense to stop Miami with limited time left?

It's understandable why the Patriots chose to play conservative and go into the half tied at 10, but isn't that an admission there isn't much confidence in the team? It would have been nice to see Brady and the offense get an opportunity to run a two-minute drill and go into the half with a lead.

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