By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The ‘double-score’ has become one of Bill Belichick’s trademarks as a head coach. It’s why the Patriots generally choose to kick off after winning the coin toss, instead of starting the game with the ball. On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals had a chance to give Belichick’s Patriots’ team a taste of their own medicine, but New England flipped the table on them in what ended up being one of the most crucial moments of the game.
For those who don’t know, the ‘double-score’ is somewhat of a two-for-one opportunity in football. If a team scores on the last drive of the first half, then gets the ball to start the second half and scores again, they can run up as many as 14 points without giving their opponent a chance to respond.
Arizona had a perfect chance to pull off the ‘double-score’ on Sunday. They led 10-7 as the second quarter was winding down, and were set to receive the second half kickoff.
After the Patriots punted with seven minutes to go in the first half, the Cardinals drove 64 yards on 14 plays. That left them with a 3rd & goal to go at the New England eight yard line, with 36 seconds to go until halftime.
On that third down, Kyler Murray hit receiver KeeSean Johnson on a slant short of the end zone. While it initially looked like he was able to bully his way into the end zone, Johnson was ruled down after a review.
Instead of kicking the field goal on fourth down to go up 13-7, the Cardinals decided to go for it, needed half a yard for a touchdown. Ja’Whaun Bentley, Lawrence Guy, and Akeem Spence (who was making his Patriots debut) closed the hole and kept Kenyan Drake out of the end zone. Whereas the Cardinals had a chance to go up six or even 10 points, they’d take just a field goal lead into the break.
“Well, the stop at the end of the half was a big one,” Belichick said after the game. “Like the inside zone came, cut it back. I think Bentley made a good, strong tackle. That was obviously a huge, huge play for us.”
The stop not only kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard for that drive, it ignited the Patriots sideline after a somewhat unenergetic first half.
“Everybody was crunk. We were full of emotions,” safety Adrian Phillips said of the halftime locker room after the paly. “It was crucial – They had the ball with whatever many seconds left and it’s fourth and one on the goal line. If they score, on top of that, they get the ball back.”
Phillips continued, saying that the emotional high of that one play carried the Patriots into the second half.
“It was just a big swing of momentum and a big swing in points,” he told reporters.” It was huge for us to be able to go out there and get the goal line stand. You go into halftime and everybody is amped up. That’s exactly what we needed for our team. That was a confidence builder.”
That new confidence was visibly apparent in the second half. After allowing 5.3 yards per play in the first half, New England’s defense held the Cardinals to a punt after six plays on the opening drive.
Arizona had a situation where, had they executed properly, they could have led by as much as 17 mid-way through the first quarter. Instead, they found themselves leading just 10-7 as New England got the ball for the first time in the second half.
The momentum only kept rolling from there. After the Patriots used their first drive of the second half to tie the game with a field goal, the defense came up with another big stop when Phillips intercepted a pass deflected by Adam Butler. New England took advantage of the short field and found the end zone.
From being on the brink of going down 24-7, the Patriots now led the game 17-10. The defense was able to ride the momentum for the rest of the way – after allowing 5.3 yards per play in the first half, they held the Cardinals to just 3.4 yards per play in the second half.
For the last few weeks, Bill Belichick has talked about how his team needs to be better at situational football. Defensively, they checked that box in a major way on Sunday. Just when the game looked to be slipping away, New England made the plays they needed to and kept things in control. In doing so, they also completely turned the game around.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.