<
>

Quick-hit thoughts from 1st quarter

LANDOVER, Md. -- Quick-hit thoughts after the first quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Redskins (New England leads 14-10):

1. Add tight end Rob Gronkowski’s 49-yard catch and run to his impressive list of highlights this year. He’s playing at a higher level. Then on his ensuing touchdown catch – his NFL record 14th of the season (most by a tight end) -- it was humorous to see him drill the spike and then look to the air immediately to catch the football on the bounce-back. He’ll want to keep that ball.

2. Cornerback Devin McCourty’s struggles continue. He was beaten deep by Donte Stallworth on the Redskins’ first scoring drive. Safety Matthew Slater also looked slow to break on the ball up the right side. He later was called for pass interference to extend the Redskins’ fourth drive. He also was in coverage on Jabar Gaffney’s touchdown.

3. Welcome back Dane Fletcher. Nothing like announcing one’s presence after a six-game absence than making the opening tackle of the game on kickoff coverage.

4. Terrific play by gunner Matthew Slater on the Patriots’ first punt, locating the ball and keeping it from going in the end zone. Sergio Brown downed the ball at the 4.

5. Slater’s work as a gunner set up Andre Carter’s strip sack in the end zone that was recovered by Vince Wilfork for a touchdown. Great awareness by Wilfork to spot the loose ball and then react quickly. Unusual to see a player his size with that type of quickness in that situation. It was a play where Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman had to get rid of the ball and the Patriots took advantage.

6. Overall, it’s been a different look from the Patriots on defense, with Mark Anderson playing more of a standup outside linebacker role.

7. The Patriots’ red zone defense rose up again. For the second straight week, they held the opposition to a field goal after the ball was advanced to the 1. They were aided by a false start penalty in both games, and on both plays, the Patriots’ d-line shifted in unison.

8. For the second straight week, Nick McDonald drew the start at center. He’s the Patriots’ fourth center this season.

9. Julian Edelman is back in his defensive role after playing exclusively on offense last week. He’s the sixth defensive back.

10. From warm-ups, there is one change on the punt coverage unit this week, with linebacker Dane Fletcher replacing Gary Guyton.

11. Just nine plays on offense for the Patriots, a combination of the defensive TD and quick strike two-play TD drive.

12. A lot of Patriots fans here. Almost feels like a home game at times.