Quick-hit thoughts after first quarter

CHARLOTTE -- After 15 minutes of play on "Monday Night Football," the Patriots trail the Panthers 7-0. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter:

1. Vereen returns. Running back Shane Vereen quickly made his appearance in the Patriots' backfield, coming on for the second offensive snap and catching a screen pass. Vereen has played a steady stream of snaps thus far, with two catches to his name.

2. As does Talib; jaws with Panthers WR Smith. Cornerback Aqib Talib is back in the lineup after three games missed due to a hip injury and his presence already has been felt. He has been often used to shadow Panthers receiver Steve Smith and broke up a pass on the first third down of the game for the Panthers. Smith later bested Talib for a 42-yard gain for the Panthers' first big play of the game. The two later mixed it up following a first-down reception by Smith, resulting in a personal-foul penalty on Talib. They've been heavily engaged in talk throughout the first quarter.

3. Edelman hits reception incentive. Wide receiver Julian Edelman caught his 50th pass of the season during the first quarter, a significant reception from a financial standpoint. That triggered a clause in his contract that pays him $120,000. He can earn up to $250,000 in total incentives by reaching 70 catches.

4. Panthers strike first. The Panthers got on the board first with a 9-yard touchdown strikes from Cam Newton to receiver Brandon LaFell. The play culminated an impressive, nine-play, 90-yard drive.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the first quarter: guard Dan Connolly (illegal block in the back) and cornerback Aqib Talib (unnecessary roughness).