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Sunday, November 11, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts after first quarter

By Field Yates

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After one quarter of play, the Patriots lead the Bills 10-0. Passing along some notes and observations from the quarter.

1. McCourty starts at safety. Steve Gregory returned to action today, but that didn't result in Devin McCourty moving back to his normal cornerback alignment. Instead, it was Gregory and McCourty as the starters at safety, with rookie Alfonzo Dennard starting in McCourty's normal left cornerback alignment, opposite of Kyle Arrington. After releasing starting nickel back Sterling Moore last week, veteran Marquice Cole has been elevated to that role. As expected, guard Logan Mankins returned right to his spot on the left side of the line after missing consecutive games with hip and calf issues.

2. Brady avoids pair of interceptions on opening drive. The Bills had two shots to force an interception of Tom Brady on the Patriots' opening drive, but whiffed on both tries. First, Brady had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage that fell through the arms of a Bills defensive back, and then receiver Deion Branch had a rare drop that popped into the air and again was dropped by a Bills defensive back. The Patriots did manage a field-goal on their opening drive to give them the early lead.

3. Wilfork forces turnover. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork came up with the biggest play of the first quarter, forcing a fumble on a sack of Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave the Patriots the football at the 13-yard line going in. It wasn't their prettiest red zone offensive exhibition, but running back Stevan Ridley eventually cashed in with a one-yard score, his sixth of the season. For Wilfork, it was his first sack of the season and 14th of his career. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham recovered the fumble.

4. Flags mounting for Bills. The margin for the Bills entering today's game was slim, and they've done themselves no favors, with six penalties already. Costly penalties on both sides of the ball have both prolonged Patriots' drives and nullified whatever offensive momentum they've been able to muster up. Buffalo entered the day with just 40 penalties, third fewest in the NFL.

5. Penalty box. No Patriots were flagged for penalties in the first quarter.