FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick-hit thoughts after the first quarter, with the score tied at 7:
1. The Patriots opened by playing a “big nickel” with three safeties against the Chargers’ base offensive personnel. That was a sign of them opening the game by treating tight end Antonio Gates as a receiver. There is a lot more matching up personnel in this game, with the Patriots shuttling defenders on and off the field each snap. Good chess match.
2. Great touchdown catch by tight end Aaron Hernandez. He continues to shine. Last week, 65 of 80 snaps came with two or more tight ends on the field. The Patriots are on a similar course through 15 minutes today.
3. Tough first 15 minutes for tight end Rob Gronkowski, giving up a sack to Shaun Phillips and being flagged for offensive holding.
4. Rookie offensive tackle Nate Solder was used as a third tight end on three snaps of the team’s opening 12-play touchdown drive. The Patriots have run and thrown out of that three-TE package, as that is a new game-plan wrinkle against the Chargers’ 3-4 defense. Overall, Solder has been on four times as a third tight end.
5. The Chargers’ scored on their second drive and it was a case where a golden turnover for an opportunity couldn’t be converted. Safety Josh Barrett had a would-be interception sail through his hands (his right thumb is covered by a cast).
6. Not sure if they showed it on the TV broadcast, but quarterback Tom Brady had a fiery reaction after Chad Ochocinco’s 15-yard catch in which Ochocinco hauled in the pass over the middle and was interferred with. Brady went up to Ochocinco and gave him a smack on the helmet to congratulate him. Looked like a good example of Brady knowing Ochocinco had a tough week and letting him know he appreciates him battling through it.
7. The Patriots continue to use a hurry-up offense. At one point, they were lined up ready to snap the ball while referee Walt Anderson was still announcing a penalty. You could hear Chargers players yelling to the sideline “hurry up!” as they attempted to substitute.
8. Solid kickoff return by Julian Edelaman after the Chargers’ score, setting the Patriots up at the 37 after a short kickoff by Nick Novak.