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First-quarter notes: Patriots 14, Texans 0

12.10.12 at 9:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The first quarter is in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots have a 14-0 lead. Here are a few quick notes.

•The Patriots won the toss and deferred, choosing to kick off to start the game.

•It wasn’t a great start for either team — the Texans had a 12-yard run from Arian Foster called back because of an illegal formation penalty, while the Patriots’ defense had to call an early time out because they had 12 men on the field.

•The Patriots defense showed a few interesting wrinkles in their first defensive series — while Aqib Talib is working almost exclusively on Andre Johnson, they are also utilizing Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory at safety. Up front, Chandler Jones (who was active for the first time since last month because of an ankle injury he suffered early against the Colts) didn’t start, but did see his first action of the game late in the quarter. Instead, New England went with Rob Ninkovich and Trevor Scott at defensive end, and Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick at defensive tackle.

•On Houston’s second series, Ninkovich and Scott shared a sack off a busted play-action fake. Later in the drive, Devin McCourty made a great read on a Matt Schaub pass play for wide receiver Kevin Walter — Schaub thought he had Walter in the end zone, but McCourty made a big play on the ball, reading Schaub, who locked onto his receiver. McCourty took the ball out of the end zone to the New England 18.

•A 31-yard punt return for Wes Welker — who took over responsibilities for Julian Edelman after Edelman went on IR this week — was the special teams highlight of the first quarter for New England.

•The Patriots’ offense was living a little dangerous on its first drive of the evening. After Welker’s big return, New England picked up a key first down to help keep the drive alive, a 25-yard pass from Brady to Wes Welker got the Patriots into the Houston red zone. After a few squeamish moments because of a Stevan Ridley fumble (recovered by Aaron Hernandez), Tom Brady found Hernandez with a seven-yard scoring strike to make it 7-0 with 9:27 left in the first quarter.

•A 37-yard touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on a tremendous play-action fake to Ridley — one where both Texans safeties bit hard — gave New England a 14-0 lead. (Lloyd caught a 14-yarder earlier in the drive on third down to keep the chains moving.)

•As for J.J. Watt, he was a disruptive force, but his overall impact was minimized by some solid work by the New England offensive line (as well as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who worked as a blocker). Watt was moved from side to side throughout the first quarter, but hasn’t had a sack.

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