Some highlights from the opening quarter:
Dane Fletcher made his presence known early with a big tackle on special teams on the opening kickoff, followed by an immediate hit on Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman on Washington’s first offensive play from scrimmage. On the play Fletcher swam through the left guard and center and hit Grossman as he threw the football, forcing an incompletion. It was a great play, and initially ignored on the telecast while they went to the Redskins starting line-ups.
Two plays later Devin McCourty made a big play on 3rd & 6, knocking a pass away from Santana Moss and forcing a Redskins punt.
In the first quarter Rob Gronkowski set the NFL record for tight ends with his 14th touchdown of the season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
On the Patriots opening possession, Tom Brady completed a pass to Aaron Hernandez on their first play from scrimmage, with Brady completing the pass on the right side where Hernandez caught the ball five yards out in front of the line of scrimmage, with Danny Woodhead out wide. After the catch Woodhead came back in and and Hernandez went around him, with Woodhead blocking Redskins defensive back Josh Wilson out of the play which allowed Hernandez to pick up 14 more yards for a total gain of 24 on the play.
Brady then went to the no-huddle, but he looked erratic. He threw behind Deion Branch, over Danny Woodhead, and then no where near Hernandez. The last pass was tough because Brady took quite a shot from London Fletcher, who came in right up the middle to force the incompletion. That forced New England to punt, but it was a good one by Zoltan Mesko, with the ball being downed at the Redskins 4 yard line.
On the ensuing Redskins possession Andre Carter got by Willie Smith and hit Rex Grossman from his blindside, forcing a fumble. Vince Wilfork recovered, and the Patriots grabbed an early 7-0 lead with 12:06 to go in the first quarter. On the play James Ihedigbo was also about to hit Grossman on the blitz, so New England showed good pressure on that drive. Wilfork then ran over to his wife, who had seats behind the team bench, and handed her the football.
On Washington’s next drive, Grossman opened the series with an incompletion, which left him 0-4 to start the game. However three plays later facing a 3rd and 9, he connected on a 51-yard pass to Dante Stallworth, who got behind Devin McCourty. McCourty closed in on Stallworth and wrapped him up as the ball arrived and nearly knocked it out, but Stallworth held on and the Redskins had the ball at the Patriots 14-yard line.
After Washington got down to the one yard line, the Patriots defensive line did a lateral shift on a 3rd and goal play, which caused a false start and backed the Redskins up five yards. On the ensuing play Jerod Mayo shot up the middle and drilled Grossman, with the quarterback throwing the ball away. On the play Grossman left the field favoring his left arm, after replays showed that Mayo’s helmet hit it. Washington was forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal to cut the Patriots lead to 7-3 with 6:42 to go in the quarter.
The Redskins then kicked the ball out of bounds on the kickoff, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 40 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage for New England, we then witnessed a pretty amazing play that will likely be one of the biggest highlights of the season. Brady dropped back and found Rob Gronkowski, who dove and got the pass at about the 50 yard line. He rolled and immediately got up, and took off up the field into Redskins territory. He was then wrapped up by Washington safeties DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty at about the 46-yard line. However, they would soon be out of the play after Gronkowski dragged them both five yards to about the 41 before he tossed away Gomes and ripped his left leg out of the grasp of Doughty and then broke away down the field. Josh Wilson then hit him at about the 26, where Gronkowski lost his footing and stumbled all the way down to the 11 yard line before DeAngelo Hall fell over him at the 11 yard line. Hall should get an earful tomorrow from the coaches, as he just stood there and watched Doughty and Gomes try and wrestle him down rather than join in on the gang tackle when they first wrapped him up.
On the next play Brady hit him from 11 yards out, with Gronkowksi snatching the ball out of the air for his record setting 14th touchdown of the season to put New England up 14-3 w/5:49 to go. It was the Patriots first offensive touchdown in the first quarter since the Philadelphia game, and only their 2nd in the last 8 games during the opening quarter.
Julian Edelman made some noise on the ensuing kickoff return by Washington, cutting down wide receiver Bandon Banks with a big hit and received plenty of high fives from his teammates as he left the field.
However, the Redskins managed to put together a long drive, which was highlighted by a 24-yard reception by Jabar Gaffney, who had Kyle Arrington playing too far off of him on the play. Two plays later Santana Moss had an 18-yard reception, which saw Devin McCourty put a hit on Jerod Mayo, as the two converged on the Redskins receiver. That play actually lifted Mayo up and over McCourty, with Mayo sliding off him and onto the ground and left Mayo clearly hurting a bit. Runningback Roy Helu added a 26 yard run after he slipped by Mark Anderson who had a chance to grab him as he was turning the corner, and took the ball down to the Patriots 13 yard line. Two plays later Grossman found Jabar Gaffney all alone in the right side of the endzone, and just like that the Redskins were back in the game at 14-10 with 1:20 to go in the quarter.
On the ensuing drive, the Patriots went three and out, which was highlighted by a sack on third down after Danny Woodhead wasn’t able to pick up a blitz up the middle on Tom Brady, with Washington’s Stephen Bowen bowling through Woodhead to take him down. They punted away the football, which was the final play of the quarter.