FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Picked-up pieces from first-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 27-26 win against the Browns:
1. The player I was most interested to watch was nose tackle Sealver Siliga, a surprise starter over Joe Vellano and Isaac Sopoaga. He has a Kyle Love-type build at 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, and he two-gapped effectively, which showed up multiple times. One play, in particular, came on Fozzy Whittaker's 1-yard run on third-and-8 with 10:01 remaining. Siliga aligned over right guard Shawn Lauvao, and when Lauvao blocked down to account for blitzing linebacker Dane Fltecher, that created a one-on-one matchup between Siliga and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Siliga was initially knocked off balance before recovering with a pretty strong anchor, getting his arms outstretched to lock out Schwartz before locating the ball and shedding to make the tackle. Nice play. Siliga has us intrigued, because we haven’t seen that type of effective two-gapping from a Patriots defensive tackle since Vince Wilfork's season-ending injury.
2. When considering the slow start for the Patriots’ offense, it was more execution than anything -- and by two of their best players. The opening throw to tight end Rob Gronkowski looked like a solid read by Tom Brady against man coverage up the left side, but he just overshot it slightly. And on second down, Gronkowski simply dropped a short pass on the right side as Brady felt the blitz from his backside and got rid of it quickly. The first three plays on the opening three-and-out involved Brady, Gronkowski and Shane Vereen -- arguably their three best skill-position players. Just called for better execution.
3. One Patriots positive from an otherwise poor quarter of offensive football -- running back LeGarrette Blount had 16 of his 17 rushing yards after initial contact. He’s a tough tackle.
4. Maybe a bit harsh, but we’d put the Brady long incomplete pass on a right-to-left crossing route to Julian Edelman (3:51 remaining) more in the category of a “tough drop” than an “overthrow.”
5. On the ensuing play, it looked like Brady’s decisive argument with referee Jerome Boger to pick up an intentional grounding flag, because of Blount being in the area, swayed the decision. From this perspective, it looked like the penalty should have been called, as the ball didn’t get past the line of scrimmage.
6. This was a game where each offensive lineman had one or two plays that were noticeable struggles. For example, on Brady’s interception (3:41 remaining), right tackle Will Svitek hauled down Paul Kruger and could have been called for holding as he got knocked out of his stance. It looked like Svitek let Kruger get his hands on him before his initial punch, and that led to the breakdown. Overall, we like the Browns’ defensive front -- big and physical, sort of like the old Patriots' teams with Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork and Co.
7. On the 12-men-on-the-field penalty, it is unclear where the breakdown occurred, but the Browns had their three-receiver package on the field and the Patriots had been countering that with a nickel grouping. Linebacker Brandon Spikes was the extra playe,r and either he was sent into the game as part of a coaching breakdown or he came on to the field mistakenly.
8. One of the wrinkles in the 3-4 base defense at times had Chandler Jones playing more as a down lineman than at outside linebacker, with rookie Jamie Collins instead playing the outside linebacker role. The Patriots give up some size in that exchange, as Jones has more length but less bulk than a more traditional defensive end, but they held up well against the run regardless. In theory, Collins would give the Patriots some coverage help, although he seemed to have some challenges with tight end Jordan Cameron (16-yard catch, 7:12 remaining when the Patriots rushed just three).
9. Rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan felt like he could have played the opening kickoff better against the Houston Texans (50-yard return by Keshawn Martin), specifically doing a better job playing off Matthew Slater when attacking the wedge, so it caught the eye that Buchanan made the initial hit on the game’s first kickoff against the Browns. That’s the improvement any young player wants to achieve.
10. Seemed like a quick whistle on the short pass to Browns receiver Greg Little as linebacker Dont'a Hightower ripped Little to the ground and the ball came free (10:47 remaining). Bill Belichick was upset after the play, and that’s probably why -- it easily could have been a fumble. Overall, it seemed Hightower was playing faster in this game.