Quick-hit thoughts after 1st quarter

December, 18, 2011
12/18/11
5:01
PM ET
DENVER – Quick-hit thoughts after the first quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Broncos (New England trails 13-7) :

1. Big problems on run defense for the Patriots on the Broncos’ opening three drives. Part of what makes the Patriots’ run defense successful is solid fundamentals and run fits. Too many breakdowns early. Shoddy tackling too. Poor edge-setting. Ugly.

2. Haven’t seen the run defense look this poor all season. The Broncos had 167 yards on the ground in the first quarter.

3. Nothing exotic from the Patriots on defense against Tim Tebow. Just their standard 4-3. At one point, they had to burn a timeout as only 10 men were on the field, reflecting how the breakdowns have come on the sideline as well as on the field.

4. A lot of rotating early along the defensive line, which is unusual.

5. Chad Ochocinco gets the nod as the No. 2 receiver with Deion Branch out. He delivered a big downfield block on Aaron Hernandez’ 46-yard catch-and-run, then hauled in a 33-yard touchdown grab. Big start for Ochocinco.

6. Hernandez’ 46-yard catch-and-run on third down was a huge play because it quieted the stadium, which was rocking after the Broncos’ opening TD and two plays in which the Patriots’ offense was stopped.

7. Safety Matthew Slater struggled tackling on the first drive and on the first play of the Broncos’ second drive. He was replaced by Sergio Brown. Slater looked overmatched.

8. Rookie offensive tackle Marcus Cannon was on for four snaps, as Nate Solder was used as an eligible receiver. Solder can’t go from an eligible receiver back to tackle, so Cannon stays on for an extra snap. This is a situation to watch as Cannon is going up against some solid edge rushers. On one play he did a nice job on Elvis Dumervil.

9. Impressive start for Tebow when he's been asked to throw. He's mostly been on the money.

10. The Andre Carter injury (left knee) looks serious. Mark Anderson is the next man up at right defensive end.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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