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Friday, September 5, 2014
What Patriots can learn from NFL opener

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass -- Bill Belichick sometimes will show New England Patriots players key plays from other games around the NFL, as those situations could come up in their own games.

Along those lines, here were a few takeaways from the NFL opener Thursday night (Seahawks vs. Packers):

Importance of special teams. The game’s first 10 points were set up because of special teams miscues -- a running into the punter penalty on the Packers leading to a field goal, and then a muffed punt by Seattle's Earl Thomas producing a touchdown. Also, the Packers had to burn a timeout when they had an extra player on the field on their field-goal block unit. Belichick often preaches the “third phase of the game” and the opener was a good example of its importance.

Discipline with read-option look. The Seahawks’ first touchdown came on a nice play design, as quarterback Russell Wilson faked a handoff to running back Marshawn Lynch on a read-option look before throwing to a wide-open Ricardo Lockette for the 33-yard score. Lockette eluded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix en route to the end zone, as cornerback Sam Shields bit hard on the run fake. With some athletic quarterbacks who can run on their schedule, starting with Miami's Ryan Tannehill, Shields' miscue was a good teaching point for New England defensive backs.

Hard to win if you can’t block. When the Packers lost starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga to injury and inserted Derek Sherrod to take his place, two missed blocks from Sherrod were critical. The first came on a fourth-and-5 in which Sherrod was beaten on a speed rush to the outside by Cliff Avril for a turn-the-ball-over-on-downs sack. Then later in the third quarter, Sherrod was beaten decisively by Michael Bennett for a strip sack that produced a safety. The Patriots visit the Dolphins on Sunday and know they will face significant edge pressure on that side from Cameron Wake.