1. When the Patriots went with their 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB package with Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright as the tight ends, the Bengals matched in a nickel defense and treated Wright like a receiver, with cornerback Leon Hall on him. Hall is an experienced corner with a solid pedigree and Wright ran an excellent route up the left side -- leveraging Hall to the outside before working up the left seam -- on his 30-yard catch (13:41 remaining). Meanwhile, Wright's touchdown came out of the 1 WR/3 TE/1 RB package, and the Bengals matched in base. It looked like a mixup with Cincinnati's linebackers (Emmanuel Lamur and Rey Maualuga) as Wright had a free release off the left side of the line for the relatively easy pitch-and-catch. The two plays were good examples of how Wright (6-4, 235) can be tough to match up against for linebackers and cornerbacks as a "move" type tight end.
2. As a contrast, the Patriots' 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB package with Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui drew a matchup against the Bengals' base 4-3 defense. This highlights how the Bengals weren't as concerned with Hoomanawanui as a pass-catcher when compared to Wright.
3. Getting off to a fast start was critical and sometimes it just takes one play to spark it. The Patriots got it with a 20-yard Tom Brady-to-Brandon LaFell hookup to open the game, and the personnel grouping (2 WR/1 TE/1FB/1 RB) highlighted how the team planned to attack by using more base personnel with multiple tight ends or two backs. That created a matchup against the Bengals' base 4-3 defense. On the opening play, there was effective play-action to Stevan Ridley, seven players stayed in to pass-protect (underrated block by Hoomanawanui on Carlos Dunlap on right side), the Bengals bit on the action, and there was a wide swath of real estate to work with between the sucked-up linebackers and deeper defensive backs. Overall, it was good manipulation of the Bengals' base D with play-action.
4. Tempo was established on the next play when Brady snapped the ball with 18 seconds left on the play clock (Ridley 9-yard power run up the middle). The Bengals talked after the game about how the quick snaps affected their ability to line up and it showed up several times.
5. Fullback James Develin played a season-high 27 snaps (not including kneel-downs). He brought a hard-hitting attitude -- a crunching block on Maualuga on a Ridley 9-yard run and thumping lead block on the 1-yard touchdown run come to mind. It was an attitude game, and Develin brings a lot of attitude.
6. Nice clean pocket against a four-man rush on the 27-yard Brady-to-Gronkowski hookup that gave Brady 50,000 yards for his career (4:15 remaining). The Patriots' offensive line won more 1-on-1 battles, and that play was a good example, particularly with tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
7. Not sure what the officials saw on Develin's rush for no gain on third-and-1 (11:52 remaining), but that is one of the worst spots I've seen in some time. Develin easily had the first down by a yard. We're all human and make mistakes, but that one is unacceptable at this level. Gronkowski's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was also ticky-tack.
8. The Patriots' 12-men-on-the-field penalty appeared to be a case where the coaching staff and players couldn't get its substitution clearly communicated. The Bengals had been in a 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB package on the prior snap (offensive tackles split wide), with the Patriots matching with a 4-3 base. The Bengals then subbed off tight end Ryan Hewitt for a third receiver (Brandon Tate), and the Patriots sent nickelback Kyle Arrington on the field, but no player (usually linebacker Deontae Skinner) came off. Better communication needed.
10. Cornerback Darrelle Revis was matched up on A.J. Green for a large portion of the night. Tedy Bruschi's recap of how he was penalized on his nullified interception (7:33 remaining), but then showed the intelligence to be ready for the same move a few plays later (6:41 remaining), is Revis at his best, as Bruschi said.