Picked-up pieces from 1st quarter review

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
10:54
AM ET
Taking a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Bills and offering some first quarter observations:

1) The Patriots had some trouble getting the running game going on the first drive of the game, behind RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. These struggles can be traced back to DTs Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, who frequently drew double-teams from the Patriots' offensive line, and held their ground against the blocks. The Bills also used S Bryan Scott in the box, and he, along with the Bills' linebackers did a good job of swarming to the ballcarrier and fighting through blocks.

2) The Bills' first offensive play was a 33-yard completion to WR Stevie Johnson against CB Leigh Bodden, who trailed by about two steps in coverage after Johnson faked an inside route off the line. Even with pressure generated by RDE Andre Carter, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick could not have delivered a better throw. The speed differential was key here; not only was Bodden lacking, but also FS Josh Barrett, who was lined up on the near hashmarks and couldn't get past the numbers by the time the ball arrived, taking a downfield angle in case Johnson broke free from Bodden.

3) As the Patriots entered the red zone and were looking for another touchdown on their second drive of the game, they used three-receiver sets, but did not include WR Chad Ochocinco in those personnel groupings. As the tallest Patriots receiver, you would expect him out there, perhaps in place of WR Julian Edelman. After QB Tom Brady essentially threw it away on first down, the Bills on second down double-teamed the Patriots' top red zone threat, TE Rob Gronkowski, leading to a Brady scramble (negated by a Bills holding penalty). This penalty put the Patriots into their goal line formation, but not seeing Ochocinco on the first set of downs was telling.

4) While the pass rush for the Patriots was again lacking, the run defense had a better afternoon. On a first-and-10 run by the Bills late in the first quarter, DT Kyle Love held his ground against a double-team while tracking a Fred Jackson run to the right. Meanwhile, OLB Rob Ninkovich shed RT Erik Pears to collapse the running lane and set-up Carter to come off the backside and make the stop.

5) Credit Ninkovich on Fitzpatrick's second interception thrown to CB Kyle Arrington, at the end of the first quarter. On the play, Ninkovich beat Bell around the edge with a swim move, forcing Fitzpatrick to quickly step-up and hurry his throw. Rushing only three, the Patriots were in a max coverage for the fourth-and-14 play, making any such rushed throw a dangerous one.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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