In the first half of the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots have done virtually everything right – except those parts when they threw it all a way.
The easiest place to start, of course, is at the end of the first half, when the Seattle Seahawks scored a game-tying touchdown without really trying. Those two running plays to start the drive? That was football-speak for: We're not going to kneel down, but we don't really expect this to work. Thirty-four yards later, the light bulb went off.
We could actually score. And they did. Eighty yards in 29 seconds for a touchdown. Score: 14-14.
The camera cut to Patriots coach Bill Belichick. And somehow, in some undefinable way, his face looked even more dour than it normally did.
His team had just blown it, big time, and he knew it.
The entire first half was about the Patriots doing what the Patriots do best: Taking a Belichick-crafted game plan to exploit an opponent's weaknesses and executing it. In last year's Super Bowl, the Seahawks overwhelmed the Denver Broncos by turning quarterback Peyton Manning into a pinwheel. Pressure was blowing through him on every dropback, it seemed.
This year, the Patriots haven't given the Seahawks time for a repeat performance. Short passes. A machine-gun staccato of precision throws that the Seahawks swarming defense could contain, but not stop. The field eaten yard by yard, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throwing before defenders could get near him.
Then again, the only time the Seahawks got close, Brady threw an crucial interception.
Meanwhile, on defense, they basically just sat back and dared Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to beat them with his arm. For more than a quarter, it worked spectacularly well. Then Chris Matthews happened.
That would be Seattle rookie receiver Chris Matthews, who before today had caught exactly one National Football League pass. Without him, however, the Seahawks might still be waiting to get by midfield.
Figures. The one man who can beat the Patriots might be the one man on whim Belichick has almost no game film.