Quick hits after first quarter
October, 21, 2012
By Field Yates | ESPNBoston.com
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaFOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After one quarter of play in their AFC East divisional showdown, the Patriots lead the Jets 14-7. Passing along notes and observations from the opening frame.
1. Connolly, Vereen on field to start the game. It was noteworthy to see both running back Shane Vereen and offensive guard Dan Connolly on the field to start the game for the Patriots, but for different reasons. Vereen, who has been used sparingly in his career, looked solid on the opening drive. Connolly, meanwhile, was missing for much of the team's pregame warmups, but reappeared on the field just moments before kickoff. On the Patriots' second offensive drive, Connolly was replaced by Nick McDonald, after leaving the game with an illness. He is questionable to return, according to the team.
2. McCourty in at safety, Dennard starts at cornerback. From the defensive personnel side of the equation, the Patriots made a noteworthy switch in sliding Devin McCourty from his normal spot at left cornerback to a safety alignment. The move is one we've seen before, as he played safety for stretches in 2011. The Patriots are without regular starters Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, and were down to rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner as their starters based on the safety depth chart. With the move of McCourty, rookie Alfonzo Dennard was elevated to a starting role at cornerback.
3. Jets' offense makes opening statement. It was the Jets' offense -- not the Patriots' -- that landed the first punch, marching down the field for a touchdown drive to take an early 7-0 lead. It was capped off by a 1-yard run from Shonn Greene, on a play in which colleague Mike Reiss noted that the Patriots were playing with just 10 defenders on the field. Also of note on the drive, the Patriots' secondary allowed two plays of 20-plus yards through the air.
4. McCourty answers with return touchdown. In what was easily the Patriots' biggest play of the year on special teams to date, defensive back Devin McCourty took a kickoff return 104-yards for a touchdown, equalizing the game and deflating some of the Jets' momentum after their opening score. Kudos are due to cornerback Marquice Cole, tight end Daniel Fells, and running back Shane Vereen for key blocks on the play, and of course McCourty for the tremendous burst and vision.
5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were called for penalties in the first quarter: cornerback Ras-I Dowling (holding).