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Sunday, December 16, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts from first quarter

By Field Yates

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After one quarter of play, the Patriots trail the 49ers 7-0. Passing along some quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter.

1. Rivera starts for Spikes. When the Patriots took the field on defense for the first time, it was Mike Rivera -- not Brandon Spikes -- starting alongside Jerod Mayo as an inside linebacker. Spikes has been dealing with both knee and ankle injuries of late, and he was limited in practice each day this week. Rivera has logged most of his playing time as a core special teamer this season. On the Patriots' second defensive drive, Spikes stepped back into the lineup.

2. Moss makes early impact. A familiar face made a familiar play, as wide receiver Randy Moss ran behind the Patriots secondary for a 24-yard touchdown to open up the scoring. Moss has been sufficient in his first year with San Francisco and will play a larger role within the offense because Mario Manningham (shoulder) is out. The Patriots' secondary has been much better in recent weeks in cutting down big plays, but didn't account for Moss down the field on that touchdown. He still has good vertical speed.

3. Brady picked by Rogers, but Gregory atones for error. On the Patriots third offensive drive, quarterback Tom Brady went up top for a deep throw to wide receiver Wes Welker, but was picked off by veteran cornerback Carlos Rogers. Rogers returned the ball to the Patriots' 6-yard line, and two plays later safety Steve Gregory forced a fumble of 49ers tight end Delanie Walker. It should be noted that Brady made a touchdown-saving tackle on Rogers, which turned out to be a huge play following the Walker fumble.

4. Fake punt catches Pats. After stopping the 49ers and forcing a punt try, the Patriots were caught off guard by a fake punt late in the quarter in which personal protector Dashon Goldson took a direct snap for 31 yards and a first down in Patriots territory. The Patriots then forced a field goal try, but kicker David Akers pushed it wide left, keeping the Niners' lead at 7-0.

5. Weather playing a part. The wet conditions at Gillette Stadium seem to be having an impact thus far: The teams combined for four fumbles in the quarter.

6. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the first quarter: linebacker Mike Rivera (holding), guard Logan Mankins (false start).