Picked-up pieces from 1st quarter review

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
4:34
PM ET
Taking a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Jets and offering some first quarter observations:

1) Part of the Jets' defensive back-heavy gameplan included safety Eric Smith being used in a linebacker-type role, usually next to LB David Harris, and in place of LB Bart Scott. This gave the Jets a boost in the passing game, likely in anticipation of WR Wes Welker being used to attack the underneath part of the field. However, on the Patriots' first offensive play, Welker simply floated away from Smith on his route, and with QB Tom Brady on the same page for his throw, Welker was able to gain 11 yards without Smith being in position to break up the pass.

2) In run defense, the Patriots got contributions from some unexpected players early in the game. DT Kyle Love, who got the nod with the base defense over Albert Haynesworth, shed a block at the line and brought down the runner once on each of the first two drives, while safety James Ihedigbo played with some aggression, shedding an outside block to help bring down RB LaDainian Tomlinson on the Jets' second offensive drive. Overall, the Jets were primed to run the ball early in the game, bringing on an extra offensive lineman and favoring TE Matthew Mulligan over TE Dustin Keller, but the Patriots defense didn't allow a run for double-digit yards in the game.

3) For the second straight week, the Patriots brought on former practice squad offensive tackle Thomas Welch as a blocking tight end, but he struggled through the early going. After failing to catch up to a linebacker in the second level on a running play on the first drive, Welch dove and missed on a failed cut block attempt on OLB Calvin Pace on the second drive. He also was a liability in the passing game, allowing a blindside sack of Brady later in the game. Welch's role will likely be filled by Nate Solder upon the return of Sebastian Vollmer, but until then, the Patriots will need more out of Welch. He wasn't alone in his struggles, though; Solder, LG Logan Mankins (twice, against DT Mike DeVito), and C Dan Connolly all had notable missed blocks in the first quarter.

4) The troubles on special teams for the Patriots began with Joe McKnight's 43-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. On the return, both S Ross Ventrone and LB Jeff Tarpinian tried cutting towards the inside of the field against their respective wedge blockers, allowing McKnight to easily cut back outside. From there, S Sergio Brown and CB Devin McCourty did a good job of containing the return back towards the middle of the field, allowing CB Antwaun Molden to come across the field for the stop.

5) While DE Mark Anderson and OLB Rob Ninkovich's split-sack of QB Mark Sanchez included good hustle by both players, it was more a product of poor decision making from Sanchez. After looking to his first read on the left, Sanchez panicked, looked to his right, and decided to try to scramble the 7-8 yards for a first down. Had he reset himself, Sanchez may have had a window of a few seconds before Anderson, who was taken down on the edge by RT Wayne Hunter, could get back on his feet and pursue the third-year quarterback.

6) Brady's first sack of the game came late in the first quarter, but it's hard to pin this one on the offensive line. The Jets rushed six on the play, including an inside stunt that brought Harris and DT Ropati Pitoitua through the same hole. RB Stevan Ridley stepped up and got low on Pitoitua, up-ending him, while Mankins rode Harris to the outside. Brady, coming off the play action, had to recognize that Ridley's block would only temporarily take out Pitoitua. Instead, Brady sat in the pocket and appeared to be looking deep downfield, but couldn't find an open receiver (against man coverage), allowing Pitoitua time to get off the ground and take down Brady. This is a coverage sack, and one where Brady could have used an outlet receiver.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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