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Sunday, December 30, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts on first quarter

By Field Yates

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After one quarter, the Patriots lead the Dolphins 7-0. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter of play.

1. Gronk starts the game. It didn't take long to see tight end Rob Gronkowski, as the burly third-year player was on the field for the very first snap of the game. He took each of the first two snaps of the opening series before coming out as the team altered its personnel grouping. Gronk finished the quarter with one catch for 19 yards.

2. Wind a factor. How much of a factor is the wind today? The Patriots didn't hesitate to go for it on a fourth-and-6 situation on their opening drive from the Miami 24-yard line. The flags near the top of the goal posts have been waving steadily throughout the quarter, and we'll continue to monitor the potential impact of the wind throughout the day. The drive was headed toward the north end zone of the stadium, where an opening creates more adverse conditions.

3. Talib not in to start. While the Patriots offense was happy to have Gronkowski back on the field, for the second straight week cornerback Aqib Talib was not in the starting mix on defense. Talib continues to deal with a hip issue that had limited him in practice all week, and it's possible that the team will only use him if the game remains tight, as it did in Week 16. Devin McCourty shifted back to cornerback with Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung working as the starting safety duo.

4. Gregory makes big INT, offense capitalizes. Gregory came up with his third interception as a Patriot, stepping in front of a Ryan Tannehill throw and returning it 13 yards to set the Patriots up in Dolphins territory. It didn't take long for the offense to make the most of the short field, as quarterback Tom Brady hooked up with Wes Welker for a 9-yard touchdown just moments later to give the team its first lead of the game.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties in the first quarter: defensive back Derrick Martin (illegal block in the back), offensive tackle Nate Solder (false start).