Quick-hit thoughts on first quarter

CINCINNATI -- After 15 minutes of play, the Patriots and the Bengals are tied 0-0. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter:

1. Lineup notes. Wide receiver Danny Amendola made his return on the third offensive snap of the game, coming in as part of a three-receiver set. He's worked thus far as part of three- and four-wide-receiver sets. On defense, linebacker Brandon Spikes was kept in as part of the team's nickel group, a change from last week when Dont'a Hightower filled that role.

2. Protection problems early. On each of their first two drives, the Patriots gave up drive-altering sacks (one by Geno Atkins and one by Wallace Gilberry). In each case, it looked as though there was a protection breakdown. Tom Brady didn't have a shot to get a throw off on either play. Against a front this good, the offensive line can't afford that type of mistake.

3. Checking in on run D. One of the big storylines is how the Patriots' run defense will hold up without star nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Thus far, the results have been sufficient, as the team has allowed 44 yards on eight attempts.

4. Spikes makes a pick. Spikes intercepted Andy Dalton's pass on the last play of the first quarter, stunting the Bengals' best drive of the day and extending the Patriots' streak of games with a turnover forced to 32.

5. Penalty box. No Patriots were flagged for penalties during the first quarter.