---- — Bill Burt
FOXBORO — It was an artist at work.
It was a first half of bumbling, stumbling and fumbling and all the while New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was feverishly taking notes on his folded sheet of white paper.
What did those scribbles say about the first half, other than “We really bleep!”?
Belichick wasn’t saying after the Pats’ 34-31 overtime victory over the Broncos.
“We didn’t do anything right in all phases of the game,” he said.
But something happened when he chatted with his players about his notes during the 15-minute intermission.
If there was one great play or defining moment, maybe we throw around the term “miracle.”
This was no miracle. This was art.
The Patriots, with guys named Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon, all rookies, staring opposite one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league, had no right doing what they did.
Trailing 24-0, in probably the worst conditions — 6 degrees with windchill and 25 mph winds to the south — several thousand fans left at halftime.
It was very, very cold, windy and, well, they knew today is the dreaded first work day of the week.
Can you blame them?
You’re darn right we can blame them. Have they not followed this coach and this quarterback and this team the last 13 seasons?
The first half from hell was putrid.
Brady had no time to throw the ball in the first half, getting sacked three times, once for a strip-sack-and-fumble.
Belichick had gone through both of his “pounding” running backs, Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount, because of their penchant of fumbling. They were finished for the evening after their miscues.
And defensively, while Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning never appeared comfortable (19 for 36, 150 yards, 2 TDs, 1 int.), the Patriots allowed 137 yards rushing in the first half and an amazing 280 yards rushing overall.
But that’s what makes this team so special. Most numbers are meaningless.
Of course, Tom Brady had a second half to remember, completing 24 of 33 passes for 263 yards and three TD passes.
But the reason Brady performed like a Hall of Famer is the guys around him figured out, somehow, in the second half to protect him.
Does Belichick get all the credit? No. But let’s be honest, there were changes made and we’re guessing some notes on the subject in his halftime notes.
As for Manning, who drops to 4-10 lifetime against the Belichick-Brady combo, he had his worst performance of the 2013 season. While the weather didn’t help, Brady looked like he was throwing the ball around in San Mateo, Calif. in August.
Manning did have his moments, leading the Broncos on an 80-yard drive with 3:06 remaining in the game to tie the score, making incredibly gifted passes into the wind.
But he failed twice in overtime to get the Broncos close enough to steal the game back.
Belichick had an extra bounce in his step last night at about 12:30 a.m.
The Patriots somehow beat the Broncos in overtime, playing near-flawless football when it counted in the second half.
“We had a lot of guys step up,” said Belichick when asked about one or two guys. “Honestly, we could rattle of 35 or 40 guys who were heroes tonight.”
I know of one guy with a paint brush that stepped up like no other.
Email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org