Quick-hit thoughts after 1st quarter

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
1:45
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick-hit thoughts after the first quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Dolphins (New England trails 3-0):

1. Going to be a struggle today.

2. The Dolphins are doing a nice job dialing up pressure, overloading sides and testing the Patriots’ protection. They are winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. This looks like a few of the recent playoff losses for the Patriots where the line struggles to hold up and it paralyzes the offense.

3. Logan Mankins, playing at left tackle because of the emergency situation with Matt Light (ankle flares up Sunday morning), was injured on the second offensive drive and didn’t come out for the third series. A big part of this game is going to be if the Patriots can get things sorted out up front with all the moving parts on the offensive line.

4. The Patriots started Brandon Deaderick and Shaun Ellis as ends in their four-man line. This was the first look at how the D will draw up plans, and use personnel, without Andre Carter (season-ending injured reserve). Mark Anderson came on as a rusher in the nickel. This doesn’t mean the Patriots will go this route every game, as they are a team that alters its plans on a game-to-game basis.

5. Shaun Ellis’ sack, on the third play, came against H-back Charles Clay. That’s a one-on-one matchup the Patriots will take every time. Ellis has been down on the depth chart in recent weeks, but he’s re-emerged today.

6. More struggles for cornerback Devin McCourty as he was beaten badly on a 39-yard yard bomb up the right side to Brian Hartline on the opening Dolphins’ drive. It’s been a tough season for McCourty, who later rebounded with a pass defended on a pass intended for Brandon Marshall.

7. Bill Belichick challenged Davone Bess’ 6-yard third-down catch on the Dolphins’ first drive, and was rewarded for doing so, as it was deemed the ball hit the ground. The Dolphins would have had a 41/42-yard field goal attempt had the pass been ruled incomplete. It made it a 47-yard attempt, but Dan Carpenter still nailed it. Belichick still has use of one challenge, and if he’s successful with it, he’ll get a third.

8. Early problems in pass protection for Patriots running backs.

9. As for Logan Mankins starting at left tackle, the Dolphins overloaded that side on the sack that ended the Patriots’ first drive. But the issues weren’t related to Mankins as much as poor protection from the team’s running backs.

10. Dolphins running back Reggie Bush went over the 1,000-yard mark rushing for the first time in his career.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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