Patriots' first-quarter review: Cameron Fleming and a block party

Picked-up pieces from first-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 42-20 win against the Indianapolis Colts:

1. Rookie offensive tackle Cameron Fleming played 37 snaps as an eligible receiver/sixth offensive lineman and a good snapshot of what he brought to the attack was seen on his first snap (11:31) as he powerfully turned 2013 first-round draft choice Bjoern Werner to open the hole that running back Jonas Gray burst through for seven yards. Credit right guard Ryan Wendell with a pull and block on the play, too.

2. In the first quarter, the Patriots had four carries for 47 yards and a touchdown when Fleming was added as an eligible receiver/sixth offensive lineman.

3. Running back Shane Vereen's 18-yard run (10:20 remaining) in the gap between the right guard and right tackle doesn't happen if tight end Rob Gronkowski doesn't deliver a fine block on Erik Walden. This was a game in which Gronkowski blocked well, re-establishing himself as a powerful force in that area at different levels of the field (e.g. out in front on Julian Edelman's 25-yard end-around to plow through safety Mike Adams).

4. More dominant blocking by fullback James Develin, who kicked out linebacker Jerrell Freeman off the left side on a 16-yard run (9:52). A bit tougher to notice, but equally as important, was Fleming crashing down the line after aligning next to left tackle Nate Solder to collapse the Colts' defenders inside.

5. Left guard Dan Connolly's pull and block on Freeman, aided by straight ahead force from Wendell, helped create momentum on Gray's 4-yard touchdown run. Gray himself did a nice job to run with power, creating some of that on his own as well.

6. The second play, when Trent Richardson pounded into the line on a 1-yard run, reflected how the Patriots built a sturdy wall on defense and the downhill presence of linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins is showing up on film. The Colts had a tightly compact two-TE package with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, but the Patriots matched in a traditional nickel (3 cornerbacks, 2 safeties). That personnel matchup should favor the offense, with two tight ends against a nickel defense. But the Patriots' nickel proved to be sturdy throughout against the run. Another example came on Rob Ninkovich's excellent dip to elude a blocker and tackle Ahmad Bradshaw for a 2-yard loss (:35).

7. Hightower was credited with a tackle on the first three plays of the game, with Collins assisting on two of them. That foreshadowed a productive day for both of them. Overall, Bill Belichick said he was pleased with the way the Patriots tackled and Hightower and Collins got things off on the right foot.

8. Opponents were 8 of 45 on third down against the Colts' defense at Lucas Oil Stadium entering Sunday's game. The Patriots finished 9 of 12 on third down in the game, and the first quarter saw them move the chains on third-and-7 (Edelman's 9-yard catch) and third-and-1 (Gray 20-yard run). On Edelman's catch, slot cornerback Darius Butler wasn't in the same zip code as Edelman, whose crisp route-running on his out-breaking route couldn't be matched.

9. On Reggie Wayne's 46-yard completion up the left side, it appeared to be a communication breakdown on defense, as cornerback Darrelle Revis passed him off, presumably thinking help would be there. It wasn't. Always tough to decipher why a play breaks down without knowing the call, but our guess on that one was that all 11 defenders weren't operating off the same script.

10. The Patriots picked their spots to bring additional rushers on Andrew Luck. One of the few times we saw it in the first quarter was on their third-and-8 red-zone stop when they aligned just one player in a three-point stance, and rushed five (incomplete pass in corner of the end zone, with Kyle Arrington in coverage). The Patriots were burned on a five-man pressure on Fleener's 20-yard catch (1:07).

11. To account for the Colts' "surprise" onside kicks, which they recovered against the Titans and Texans earlier in the season, the Patriots moved fullback Matthew Slater to the front line (fullback is a reference to his role as a lead blocker to the primary return man), adding a seventh player to the line that is usually comprised of six players.

12. On Edelman's right leg injury, it appeared he landed on one of the sticks (4:19). He played through it, but was more limited than he normally would be (season-low 35 snaps).

13. Tom Brady's interception to Brian Tyms reminded me of his long-bomb touchdown connection with Tyms against the Bills, as there were three defenders in the area and it was a competitive catch situation. The main difference: Brady was under pressure on this throw, a result of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer not holding his block. Because of that, Brady couldn't get all he needed to into the throw. Probably fair to say he should have taken the sack there.