Patriots have been ending the first half on a good note
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots are on a streak.
Not a winning streak, although that is true, too. Within that streak, though, and a major contributor to it, is a string of games in which the Patriots have dealt their opponents a demoralizing blow, then sent them to the locker room to talk it over.
The Patriots have scored within the last 30 seconds before halftime in five straight games, and within the last minute before the half in seven straight games. The Week 1 loss to the Chiefs was the Patriots’ only game this season in which they weren’t the last team to score before halftime.
“They’re fun,” kicker Stephen Gostkowski said of field goals right before the half. “We work on those a lot in practice . . . you’re not in the flow of the game. I think it’s a little easier too, you know there’s going to be an opportunity, you know they’re probably not going to get a touchdown. You’ve got to be ready. You don’t want to go into the half putting your team on a bad note.”
Gostkowski has been a major contributor to the streak, kicking field goals right before halftime in four of the last seven games.
His most notable one came against the Raiders last Sunday, when Gostkowski kicked a 62-yard field goal. Gostkowski also scored before halftime against the Chargers (36 yards with 20 seconds on the clock), Buccaneers (23 yards with 40 seconds on the clock), and as time expired in the first half against the Panthers (58 yards).
“It was a timely point in the game,” coach Bill Belichick said in Mexico City after the Raiders game. “Both from the standpoint of going into the half, but also with the execution to take the ball over with 28 seconds or something like that and be able to get 3 points with the field position we had was a good credit to our overall team. Steve certainly did his job.”
The streak likely would not exist if the Patriots had a lesser kicker. Gostkowski has set franchise records with two of those kicks, in Mexico City from 62, and from 58 against the Panthers at Gillette Stadium, so even from long distances the Patriots often feel like there’s a good enough chance of success to go for it.
The offense still needs to give him that chance, though, and Gostkowski knows there’s a good enough probability it will be able to that. No matter how little time is left on the clock when a drive starts, he assumes he’ll get some work in before it’s over. In Mexico City, the Patriots got the ball at their 7-yard line with 33 seconds before halftime, and still got Gostkowski in range.
“I learned a long time ago not to assume anything,” Gostkowski said. “Always assume that there might be an opportunity. So I got myself ready. Ryan [Allen, the holder] and Joe [Cardona, the long snapper] got themselves ready. I’m not just going to sit there and worry and wonder about it, are they going to get in range or not. I’m just, I’m ready.
“You never know what’s going to happen. There’s been a few situations like that where it doesn’t look like we’ll have enough time and then all of a sudden we’re in range, so you’ve always got to be ready.”
Sometimes, the offense can do it without the help of Gostkowski’s leg. The efficacy of the Patriots’ hurry-up offense has gotten them all the way down the field three times during the seven-game stretch.
Against the Falcons it was James White, the player who was Atlanta’s undoing in the Super Bowl eight months earlier. White scored on a 2-yard pass with 21 seconds on the clock that made it 17-0 Patriots going into halftime.
Against the Jets it was Rob Gronkowski’s 2-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 14 with nine seconds left before halftime.
Against the Broncos it was Dwayne Allen’s 11-yard touchdown catch with 25 seconds left on the clock. Allen had yet to catch a pass as a Patriot until that touchdown, which served as a fitting indoctrination as part of this Patriots mini-tradition.