FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In most cases, the New England Patriots defer their choice to the second half when they win the opening toss, but Sunday's season finale against the New York Jets reflected how it is not an absolute. The Jets called tails, the coin came up heads, and the Patriots elected to receive.
Why the change?
As Bill Belichick has said in the past, extreme weather can lead to prioritizing taking the ball, which would then allow the Patriots to choose which direction they would want to kick toward in the fourth quarter in the event a game-winning field goal was needed (because the opponent gets the ball to start the second half, the Patriots would choose the direction).
That, more than anything, is what led to Sunday's decision in the coldest regular-season home game in Patriots history in which wind was considerable.
"Usually the ball dies and I think that we saw that, especially kicking towards the light house. There were some tough kicks and some tough ball-handling situations," Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said. "They had a tough field goal that they weren’t able to hit. That’s part of it. When you play here during this time of the year, that’s what you have to deal with.”
That's also what Belichick said he was assessing during his pregame visit to the field (in shorts and no sleeves).
"We walked out just to see what it was like out there," he said.
As for why the Patriots usually defer, one reason is that it sets up the opportunity for a "double score" -- first at the end of the second quarter and then at the start of the third quarter. The Patriots scored in the final minute of the first half in 11 of their 16 games in the regular season.