We see it all the time, but never learn. One team races out to an early lead, looking dominant and unstoppable on both sides of the ball, and controlling the pace of the game.
The other sideline looks outclassed and defeated, like they don't even want to finish the game.
But then they come out for the second half, and it's like the teams swapped uniforms, either the trailing team suddenly wakes up or the team with the big lead takes their foot off the gas.
But either way the game suddenly becomes interesting and is instantly characterized as a 'tale of two halves.'
Similar to last season's Super Bowl between the Ravens and 49ers, last night's showdown of AFC powers at Gillette Stadium featured an epic comeback, only in this case, the Patriots were able to finish the job against the Broncos and pick up a huge victory over a conference rival.
Once again, Tom Brady got the best of his generational rival Peyton Manning, rallying his offense after a miserable, turnover-riddled first half in the cold and windy conditions in New England that left them trailing 24-0.
Now sitting at 8-3, the Patriots remain one game behind the Broncos for home field advantage in the AFC, but they now hold the crucial tiebreaker edge should they finish tied.
Here are five things we learned from yesterday's overtime classic.
1. Never count out Tom Brady.
He looked beaten and battered in the first half, particularly on the strip sack by Von Miller that led to Denver's second touchdown. Miller and the Broncos' pass rush was terrorizing Brady the entire first half, knowing New England had to pass to cut the deficit. They had three sacks, two by Miller.
But Brady kept coming, and after receiving the kickoff to start the second half, the Patriots finally put together a complete drive and scored on a pass to Julian Edelman. After forcing a turnover and making a couple of stops in the third quarter, the Pats kept chipping away at the lead until suddenly, another touchdown pass to Edelman early in the fourth quarter gave them a 28-24 lead, less than an hour after they were written off at halftime.
The Broncos later tied it and forced overtime, but the Patriots found a way to win in a game in which they were underdogs at home for the first time since 2005. Brady did his part, throwing for 344 yards on 34-50 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions, looking completely unaffected by the weather conditions.
2. Peyton Manning struggles in cold weather.
It has been a recurring theme during his career, particularly playing in New England. It was less of an issue when he played his home games in a dome in Indianapolis, but after losing their home playoff opener last season in Denver, and with this year's Super Bowl in a cold weather city, this trend could be a major factor for the Broncos' title hopes.
During the first half barrage, the Broncos scored most of their points off turnovers and an unstoppable rushing attack. Little was asked of Manning, who only attempted a handful of passes as they kept piling on the points. But once he needed to convert a crucial third down, his passes fluttered in the swirling winds, and one was picked off by a Patriots defender to set up a key score. Manning is able to mask his limited arm strength when he is playing in a comfortable climate, but he is almost a different quarterback in cold weather games.
Although he did march the Broncos down the field for a game-tying touchdown to Demaryius Thomas late in the game to force overtime, Manning's overall numbers for the game were far beneath his record-setting pace this season, as he only threw for only 150 yards at a 19-36 rate, with two touchdowns and an interception. With up to three cold weather playoff games looming in their path to a Super Bowl crown, fans in Denver have to be a little worried about Manning's kryptonite and whether he will be able to conquer it.
3. Either Knowshon is the real deal, or the Patriots cannot stop the run.
Former first round bust Knowshon Moreno is enjoying a career revival in his fifth season with the Broncos, rushing for 824 yards and nine touchdowns in just eleven games. In this game, he was slashing through the line of scrimmage at will, seemingly gaining 8-10 yards on every play. He finished with 224 yards on 37 carries before leaving with an ankle injury.
Denver rode him hard after taking an early lead and avoiding risky pass plays in the windy conditions. And the Patriots had two rookies starting on the interior of the defensive line, so the Broncos looked to exploit that matchup advantage. Moreno is not the flashiest of backs, his 2009 draft classmate LeSean McCoy famously tweeted that he 'sucked' earlier this season, but he has been effective for Denver this season.
The Patriots have struggled against the run since Vince Wilfork was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, and such a shortcoming could surface again in January come playoff time so look for the coaches to develop a scheme that addresses this potentially fatal flaw.
4. Danny Amendola is no Wes Welker.
Amendola was signed in the offseason to a contract is essentially identical to the contract New England refused to offer Welker.
Such an organizational decision shows a blatant lack of respect to Welker, whose six-year reception numbers during his tenure in New England are the best in NFL history, not to mention the immeasurable level of trust and rapport with his quarterback Brady.
Such chemistry takes years to develop, and cannot be so easily replaced. But Amendola has a similar skill-set in the slot, and also went to the same college as Welker.
Although he had struggled to stay healthy during his career, he was younger and capable of filling that role adequately.
Sure enough, Amendola got hurt in his first game with the Patriots and has struggled since he returned over a month ago. His replacement Julian Edelman, who has been with Brady for several years, has outperformed Amendola, even when both are playing. Last night was another example of this, as Edelman finished with 110 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches, while Amendola only had three receptions for 17 yards.
Amendola could still be feeling the effects of his early season groin injury, but either way, the Welker comparisons will inevitably be brought up in this matchup, and Amendola did little to curb the criticism.
5. Taking the wind after winning the overtime coin toss is now a viable strategy.
Eleven years ago, Marty Mornhinweg was mocked around the sports world for electing to choose which side of the field to play from rather than taking the ball, due to the windy conditions at Soldier Field. The Bears would go on to score on their opening drive and win that game, in a moment that would come to define Mornhinweg's short-lived head coaching tenure.
Under the new overtime rules, a team cannot lose on an opening drive field goal, so the strategy changes a bit, but until now, all coaches have still taken the ball when they win the coin toss in overtime.
That changed on Sunday night, as Bill Belichick chose the wind and gave the ball to Peyton Manning first in overtime. Knowing that a touchdown would end the game, Belichick showed both a trust in his defense and a lack of confidence in Peyton Manning's ability to score in those weather conditions with this one decision.
After they stopped Manning and turned the game into a field position battle, Belichick's wisdom became more apparent. And when the Patriots got the ball back in field goal range on a misplayed punt, Belichick was hailed as a genius, justifiably. The wind played a major factor in both slowing the Denver offense and causing the turnover on the punt return. Once again, Belichick is a trail blazer in NFL circles.