FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After 15 minutes of play, the Patriots lead the Texans, 14-0. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter.
1. Lineup notes. Despite being active, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was not in the starting lineup. Trevor Scott started on the left side of the line, with Rob Ninkovich starting out in Jones' normal right-side alignment. Brandon Deaderick earned the start at defensive tackle for the third straight week. Offensively, both Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly were among the starting five along the line, with Michael Hoomanawanui aligning as the second tight end. On special teams, running back Brandon Bolden was on the field as part of the opening kickoff coverage unit. Wes Welker opened the game as the team's top punt returner.
2. Offense makes it look easy. After a beautiful punt return from Welker set the Patriots up with solid field position, the offense marched right down the field and Tom Brady hooked up with tight end Aaron Hernandez for a seven-yard score on its opening drive. The drive was nearly halted by a fumble by running back Stevan Ridley near the goal line, but Hernandez came up with a heads-up play to secure the loose football. A play later, he exploited a man-to-man situation against a Texans linebacker, taking the short throw for a score.
3. Talib matching Johnson some. The Patriots have rarely (if at all) used a cornerback to match a team's top receiver in 2012, but that's been the case at times with Aqib Talib checking Andre Johnson. It's an interesting tactic from the team, and a sign of the confidence they have in Talib as a coverage player. The team has mixed up its coverage principles based on the Texans' formation, but we suspect Talib could be called upon to counter Johnson quite a bit.
4. McCourty makes huge pick. Safety Devin McCourty flew from his center field alignment to come up with an interception in the end zone to prevent the Texans from scoring on their second drive. The third-year player has become a staple in the back end of the Patriots' defense, and has made the transition from cornerback to safety with relative ease.
5. Lloyd delivers. Brandon Lloyd, who was held in check in Week 13 against Miami, came up with his biggest play as a Patriot with a 37-yard score to put his team up 14-0. The play came off of a beautiful play action fake from Brady, and Lloyd found himself way behind the Texans' secondary. The Texans' safeties bit hard thinking a run was forthcoming, leaving Lloyd all alone for the score.
5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties in the first quarter: defensive end Justin Francis (offsides; penalty declined).