Long Super Bowl halftime forces teams to make adjustments
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Halftimes in the NFL are typically a 12-minute sprint. Players rush back to the locker room, maybe take a bathroom break, get a few words of advice from their coaches and head back out for the second half.
That pacing completely changes at the Super Bowl when the elaborate halftime shows lead to a 30-minute break that leads to more time for adjustments, distractions and the need to stay loose.
"You have to waste time," said Philadelphia receiver Torrey Smith, who played in the 2013 game with Baltimore.
"There's only so much you can really do. We have a plan to stay warm and things to stay active."
Eagles coach Doug Pederson is aware of the change that he even staged a 30-minute break during practice on Wednesday to get his players acclimated to the rare downtime.
The second part of practice was not nearly as crisp, which Pederson hopes will be a lesson for his players on how to handle it on Sunday against the more experienced Patriots.
"That's why I did the break, was to put us in that situation, now we understand it," he said. "It was a very teachable moment for our guys, our coaches and how to prepare for the second half of a football game."
Smith said after the adjustments that are made, players might spend the time listening to music, watching film on their iPads or even playing games on their phones.
Players might even be able to hear Justin Timberlake's halftime show in the background as the fans enjoy a concert while the players get ready for the final 30 minutes of the biggest game of their lives.
"You're so focused that you don't worry about all that," said Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who also played on the Ravens in the Super Bowl. "But we did want to see Beyonce."
Former Colts receiver Reggie Wayne remembers listening to Prince perform in 2007 in Miami, thinking he'd love to be able to watch if he didn't have a football game to focus on.
Three years later when Indianapolis played New Orleans, Wayne believes the long halftime played a role in the Saints victory. New Orleans started the second half with a surprise onside kick and took its first lead of the game on a TD pass from Drew Brees to Pierre Thomas.
"It can take the air out of the balloon of the winning team," Wayne said. "If it was a shorter halftime they might not have had enough time to ramp that up. We may not have been lackadaisical. It can get catch you off-guard. You come back out there and you might have had momentum but you no longer have it."
The longer halftime also provides the chance for more adjustments, which can be hard to do in the regular season with so little time. Teams are able to see what worked well in the first half, what didn't and even hold back some plays that can be utilized in the second half just to keep the opponent off-guard.
"It's definitely something we don't do except for once a year if we're lucky enough to be in this game," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who will make his eighth Super Bowl start.
"Just try to deal with what we got. Obviously there's time to make corrections, time to just regroup depending on how the first half went. It's a good opportunity for you to really understand where you're at what you need to do and how you need to approach the second half."
That proved crucial last year in New England's comeback win over Atlanta when the Patriots trailed 21-3 at the half before rallying for a 34-28 overtime victory.
Brady exploited one-on-one matchups on the outside in the second half after realizing Atlanta was taking away the middle of the field and the Patriots defense played more aggressively.
The Eagles are prepared for more of that this year against coach Bill Belichick's team.
"Did you see the Patriots last year? Do you think they made a lot of adjustments at halftime. You definitely can make a lot of adjustments," said Eagles defensive back Corey Graham.
"When you play like a guy like Belichick, who's so smart in making adjustments and things like that, if you give him an extra 20 minutes, can you imagine the adjustments he'll make."