Quick-hit thoughts from the second quarter, with the Patriots leading 21-10:
1. This game has turned a bit, with the interception on the Danny Woodhead tipped ball late in the second quarter giving the Bills life (it could have been 28-7 as the Patriots looked like they were ready to go in for a score; that was a 10-point swing with the Bills driving for a field goal). The Patriots got ahead early on the Bills in this game, but the Bills have hung in there. Should be an entertaining second half, with the Bills getting the ball to open the final 30 minutes.
2. Running back Danny Woodhead has been used sparingly today outside of the two-minute offense. His first snap was a third down play at the end of the first quarter. The Patriots are using more three- and four-receiver packages, but by keeping BenJarvus Green-Ellis on that package, and even rookie Stevan Ridley, it is keeping a power running option available to them. That’s a game-plan wrinkle.
3. The Bills are going after cornerback Devin McCourty, who is struggling to regain his Pro Bowl form from last year. McCourty did have one pass breakup late in the second quarter but was beaten for a touchdown and doesn't look like a shutdown option at this point.
4. Rookie right tackle Nate Solder’s hands-to-the-face penalty negated a 35-yard catch-and-run by tight end Rob Gronkowski and was a drive-killer, setting up second-and-19 on the Patriots’ fourth possession. The Patriots ended up punting.
5. Gronkowski looks like a Pro Bowler through the first three games of the season. There might not be a tight end playing better in the NFL right now.
6. Not a good drive for the Patriots’ defense at the end of the quarter, having the Bills pinned back at the 4 and surrendering 96 yards rather easily (Ryan Fitzpatrick to Stevie Johnson 11-yard TD over McCourty). Kyle Love had some problems on an inside run, and linebacker Brandon Spikes in space in the passing game is not a good matchup for the Patriots (as he chased receiver David Nelson on sideline).
7. Patriots offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins were hot after the Danny Woodhead interception, going after a group of Bills defenders. They appearenly thought a hit on the runback was on the dirty side. Couldn't tell who they were going after, but it looked like it might have been Shawne Merriman.
8. Surprised to see Zoltan Mesko punting to C.J. Spiller instead of going the directional route to the sideline. Seems risky.
9. Rob Ninkovich is playing an unsung role in this game. The linebacker is setting a strong edge in the running game, and he also delivered such a strong jam on running back Fred Jackson that Jackson hit the turf on an incomplete pass. He later drew a holding penalty on tight end Scott Chandler. On the down side, Ninkovich picked up a penalty for roughing the passer on the Bills’ late-quarter drive.
10. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork is also strong inside. He drew a holding penalty on center Eric Wood, who is having a tough time today.
11. Another wrinkle the Patriots are using without Aaron Hernandez is having four receivers and one tight end on the field. The Patriots used it four times, and that was the package in which Rob Gronkowski had back to back receptions, the second a 26-yard touchdown.
12. The Bills get the ball to start the second half. They came back from 21-3 down at the half last Sunday against the Raiders.
13. Love these Jelly Belly’s that the Bills have for reporters in the press box. A personal favorite. (Can I get away with this one? It’s not exactly Xs and Os.)