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Sunday, January 20, 2013
Quick-hit thoughts from first quarter

By Field Yates

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After 15 minutes of play, the Patriots lead the Ravens 3-0. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter.

1. DE Jones not in starting lineup. Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle) was listed as probable entering the game, although he was not on the field to start with the Patriots defense, and has yet to take a snap. Fellow rookie Justin Francis started alongside Rob Ninkovich, with Ninkovich taking over on the right side, where Jones normally aligns. In another starting lineup note, it was defensive tackle Kyle Love next to Vince Wilfork, not Brandon Deaderick, who has been a recent starter. That could be a reflection of the Patriots wanting a bigger body to handle the Ravens physical running game. Love has left the game due to a knee injury and is questionable to return.

2. Patriots picking up the pace. The Patriots offense, as usual, is operating at a rapid pace. We've seen a number of different formations and personnel groupings from the Patriots, including groups that feature three tight ends, four wide receivers, and their most common two tight end, one running back set. The Ravens have relied almost exclusively on their nickel defense (four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs) to counter the Patriots so far. The Patriots have already run 26 plays on offense.

3. Talib matching up on Boldin; also banged up. The Patriots have recently used cornerback Aqib Talib as a matchup cornerback on an opponent's top receiver, and he's been used to shadow Anquan Boldin for much of the game so far. Unfortunately for the Patriots, Talib was eventually escorted to the locker room by the team's medical staff after suffering a thigh injury. He is questionable to return.

4. Hernandez a factor. The Patriots have relied heavily on tight end Aaron Hernandez in Rob Gronkowski's absence, as he has already touched the football six times today, including an end-around carry in the red zone. The third-year tight end played some of his best football during the playoffs last season, and is off to a strong postseason start in 2013 as well.

5. Penalty Box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties in the first quarter: cornerback Aqib Talib (holding on special teams), safety Patrick Chung (holding on special teams; declined).