Patriots take halftime lead at Super Bowl XLVI

Reuters

The Patriots are halfway to bringing another Vince Lombardi Trophy to New England.

At halftime of Super Bowl XLVI, the score is 10-9 Patriots, on the strength of a Tom Brady-to-Danny Woodhead touchdown pass with just eight seconds before halftime. The Patriots had struggled for most of the first half, but they have to be thrilled about the way that final drive, which started at their own 4-yard line, went down. After a penalty moved the Patriots to the 2, Tom Brady went 10-for-10 as New England marched 98 yards to the end zone.

Rob Gronkowski’s ankle, which was the talk of the week leading up to the Super Bowl, seems to be affecting him in his breaks, but he can still run straight down the seam, turn around and catch the ball, as he did on his 20-yard grab late in the second quarter. The Patriots need to do more of that in the second half.

Meanwhile, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul might be the best football player on the field. He’s knocked down two passes, made a huge tackle on a draw play late in the second quarter and has been a major problem for the Patriots.

A big question is whether the second half will feature the New England defense that struggled during the regular season or the defense that played much better in the Patriots’ two postseason wins. Eli Manning was passing the ball at will early on, but the Patriots’ defense stiffened in the second quarter.

Giants punter Steve Weatherford has had a great game. His first punt deep into Patriots territory set up the safety on the Patriots’ first play, and the Giants’ gunners should have been able to down his second punt at the 1-yard line, but they misjudged the ball and it bounced into the end zone. His third punt went 51 yards, out of bounds at the 4.

This has not been a particularly well played half of football. Both teams had 12 on the field penalties. For all the time Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick have had to prepare over the last two weeks, it has to drive them crazy to get stupid penalties like that. The key to the second half may be which team avoids making costly mistakes.