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Quick-hit thoughts after first quarter

12/8/2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After 15 minutes of play, the New England Patriots trail the Cleveland Browns, 3-0. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter:

1. Talib shadowing Gordon. There's been no hotter receiver in football over the past two weeks than Browns wideout Josh Gordon, who has surpassed 200 yards in consecutive games. Thus far, Aqib Talib has held Gordon without a catch. That's a matchup worth watching all day.

2. Hightower strong early. After a recent stretch of play that included struggles against the Texans, linebacker Dont'a Hightower started strong against Cleveland. He's wearing the green dot on the back of his helmet, meaning he is the on-field point of communication for the defense, and he has stepped up in both pass and run coverage early on. He already has seven tackles.

3. Blount starts at running back. Though Stevan Ridley is active after sitting out last week, LeGarrette Blount was on the field for the first play of the game. Blount figures to sustain the workload he picked up last week in Ridley's absence, with Shane Vereen continuing to play a prominent role when the team goes to its up-tempo attack. Ridley has not yet played.

4. Brady picked by Jackson. The slow start for the Patriots offense has continued, as after a poor opening drive, quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted by Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on the team's second drive. Brady has been intercepted in the first half in consecutive games.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the first quarter: team defense (12 men on the field).