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Sunday, October 14, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts on first quarter

By Field Yates

After the first quarter of play, the Patriots trail the Seahawks, 10-7. Passing along some quick-hit notes and observations:

1. Hernandez starts. Tight end Aaron Hernandez was on the field to start the game, lining up alongside Tom Brady in the Patriots' spread, shotgun formation. It didn't take long for him to get involved, as he was targeted by Brady on the first play of the game, taking the short pass for an 8-yard gain after breaking an open-field tackle. Solid start for the third-year player, and we'll continue to monitor his workload and usage throughout the day. He finished the quarter with 18 yards on two catches and was ushered on and off the field throughout the quarter. It's too soon to accurately gauge the effects of his ankle injury, but Hernandez has been effective so far.

2. Huddle up. We've talked throughout the week about the impact the noise of CenturyLink Field would have on the Patriots' offense, and it could be one of the reasons that the offense opted for a more deliberate, huddle-based opening drive.

3. Ninkovich starts at SLB; Pats show 3-4 front. With both Dont'a Hightower and Tracy White nursing injuries and out for today's contest, the Patriots were left thin at linebacker entering Week 6. Rather than moving recently reacquired veteran Bobby Carpenter into the starting mix, the team opted to begin the game with Rob Ninkovich in a strongside linebacker alignment and featured more three-man defensive fronts. That also included both Jermaine Cunningham and Chandler Jones standing up in two-point stances, working as outside linebacker-type players.

4. Just what Patriots expected on defense. Bill Belichick stressed the danger of both running back Marshawn Lynch and the vertical passing game of Seattle with Russell Wilson's ability to buy time with his feet and deliver the ball down the field. In the first quarter, both showed up, as Lynch was an effective pile-pusher, while Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for a deep gain past the coverage of Kyle Arrington after eluding pressure. Wilson later bought time in the pocket to hook up with Baldwin for a 24-yard score.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were called for penalties in the first quarter: nose tackle Vince Wilfork (offsides), safety Patrick Chung (illegal contact; penalty was declined), right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (false start).