After a very exciting conference championship weekend (and a very boring bye week), we’re finally at Super Bowl Sunday!
(Editor’s note: the NFL really needs to just lighten up and let people say Super Bowl – we all know what ads mean when they say “big game” and all it does is remind me how much I hate the tools that run this league)
This is supposed to be the most exciting game of the year, but if we examine how these teams have performed in the playoffs, it could tell us something: this game may be over at the half.
Let’s start by looking at how the Patriots got here.
New England’s defense came out on fire in a tough road environment lst week, holding the Chiefs to 37 yards in the first half.
For half the game.
That’s like a nice play and that’s all the yardage they gave up for thirty minutes of football. At the half, the Patriots led 14-0. The two touchdown pad helped them weather a furious comeback in the second half and walk away with the victory.
The week before, while facing the Chargers, the Patriots defense was rocking the first half again, holding their opponent to one score while building a 35-7 halftime lead.
In both playoff games, the Patriots defense played lights out in the first half, allowing the team to lean on a lead for a victory.
This was similar to the last month of the regular season, where the defense put the clamps on in their wins against the Jets and Bills. The Patriots defense gave up a total of 3 points in both first halves. Building a 21-3 lead against the Jets (in a 38-3 victory) and a 14-0 lead against the Bills (in a 24-12 victory) meant that the offense could have taken the second half off in both games and still won.
However, the Patriots also had two losses in December and, in both cases, they failed to build a strong halftime lead. They were down 14-7 against the Steelers and lost 17-10. Against the Dolphins, they were only up 27-21 and ended up losing 34-33. It was an unlikely ending, but if they would have had a halftime lead that was any bigger, they probably still would have won.
So over the last month of the reguar season and into the playoffs, we’ve seen the Patriots win when their defense dominated the first half. When things were tight at the half, they haven’t been able to get a win.
But what about on the other side of the ball?
Well, the Rams were in a dogfight against the Saints in the NFCCG. They were down 13-10 at the half and eventually won in overtime. In their other playoff game, their defense had the clamps on the Cowboys and they built a 20-7 halftime lead that they coasted to victory on.
In the last month of the season, they were also 2-2 like the Patriots.
They had big halftime leads in their wins against the 49ers (up 31-10 at half, won 48-32) and Cardinals (up 21-7 at half, won 31-9).
At the same time, when things were close at the half, they lost to the Eagles (13-13 at half, lost 30-23) and Bears (6-6 at half, lost 15-6)
So, over the last 12 games these two teams have played, they are a combined 1-4 when the game is close at the half and a combined 7-0 when their defense hold opponents to 10 or fewer points in the first half to build a multi-score halftime lead.
If either one of these teams come out with a hot defense that can limit first half scoring to build a halftime lead, recent history shows neither team will relinquish that lead.
Let’s hope for a close halftime score and an exciting game!