Patriots’ offense surges in second half

It takes the New England Patriots a while to get their offense

going.

Then the second half starts and Tom Brady’s attack is very tough

to stop.

The Patriots (9-3) have outscored their last two opponents 61-21

after intermission despite trailing by double digits at halftime.

In both games, they scored on each of their first five possessions

of the second half. The final scores were identical: 34-31 over the

Denver Broncos, one of the NFL’s best teams, and the Houston

Texans, right now the worst.

”As the game went on, we were able to see how Houston was going

to match up to our different personnel groups,” New England coach

Bill Belichick said Monday. ”Let’s say, defensively, when you’re

facing a team that uses a lot of personnel groups, it’s hard to

have a lot of things ready for a lot of different groups.”

The Texans (2-10) hadn’t seen many two-back alignments in

watching video of Patriots games. So they might not have prepared

for seldom-used James Develin, who powered his way to a 1-yard

touchdown on the first series of the second half as offensive

coordinator Josh McDaniels used a fullback more often Sunday.

”Josh did a good job of mixing the groups,” Belichick said.

”It’s just hard (for a defense) to have a game plan where you have

eight or nine different calls against seven, eight groups. You just

run out of time to practice it and time to work on it.”

The Patriots trailed 17-7, the fourth time in their past five

games they were behind at halftime. But seven minutes into the

third quarter they led 21-17.

”Coach will come in at halftime and say `OK, these are the

things we’re going to have to do well to move the ball,”’ Brady

said. ”We started with a great drive there at the start of the

third quarter, then scored again, then scored again and scored

again. It was really a great way for us to play offense.”

The Patriots didn’t play that way in the first seven games when

they scored just 54 points after halftime.

But in the last five, they have 133 points after intermission,

including three in overtime. They’ve scored on 23 of their 36

possessions (64 percent) with 16 touchdowns and seven field

goals.

The post-halftime percentage is even better in the past three

games, when the Patriots have scored on 14 of 20 possessions (70

percent) with nine touchdowns and five field goals. Brady has

completed 73 percent of his passes for an average of 233 yards.

”You give up a touchdown drive and then you go over there and

you come right back out on a three-and-out or turnover or something

like that and you don’t get everything fixed,” Belichick said of

opposing defenses. ”Sometimes those plays reappear in the next

drive and hurt you again.”

Now, if only the Patriots could improve in the first half.

Four games have been decided by a touchdown or field goal in the

final 5 seconds. They split two that were won on overtime field

goals and won two by scoring with 5 seconds left. And the winning

margin in nine of the Patriots’ 12 games was seven points or less.

They won six of them.

”When it does come down to those types of games, we feel

comfortable,” running back Shane Vereen said. ”It’s something

that we’ve done so many times.”

On Sunday, the Patriots snapped a three-game road losing

streak.

”Every team has talent so it’s tough to win on the road,

especially when you get behind 17-7,” Brady said. ”You pump a lot

of life in to them there. It ended up being a dogfight for us, but

we found a way to pull it out.”

They did it without Stevan Ridley, their leading rusher, who was

inactive after losing fumbles in the previous three games.

”There’s no sending a message. You sit down and talk to

somebody man to man and talk about the situation,” Belichick said.

”This isn’t cryptic. We’re just trying to win a football

game.”

Texans defensive end Antonio Smith wondered how the Patriots

excelled against a defense that had some new wrinkles for the

game.

It was ”miraculous” how they changed their offense to key on

the defense, Smith said. ”Either teams are spying on us or

scouting us.”

Belichick said he was aware of Smith’s remarks, but ”I don’t

have any comment on them. I think that’s a league matter.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org