Quick-hit thoughts after 3rd quarter

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
3:25
PM ET
Quick-hit thoughts from the third quarter, with the Patriots holding a 24-17 lead:

1. Unlike Tom Brady’s first two interceptions of the season, on tipped balls, his pick on the first drive of the third quarter was different. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin had inside leverage, and while it’s possible receiver Chad Ochocinco needed to run a better route, that’s a throw Brady wants to go high on because of the leverage from McKelvin. Just better execution all around by the Bills, who capitalized on the mistake.

2. The more you watch this Patriots defense, the more it looks like the same as last year. No consistent pressure.

3. Might as well give second-year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham a chance to rush a bit. Patriots aren’t getting there consistently with Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter and Rob Ninkovich today.

4. Looked like a blown coverage on the Scott Chandler 3 yards touchdown catch. Can’t imagine the Patriots would design a defense to leave him wide open like that. Chandler was jammed initially, but then left free. Costly mixup somewhere on defense.

5. Bills with a big third-down stop on the ensuing drive, after the Patriots marched 81 yards on nine plays, advancing inside the 10. That was a disappointing final sequence for the Patriots – two runs, then a 2-yard Brady-to-Danny Woodhead pass.

6. This has been cut-and-pasted from the second-quarter quick-hit thoughts but still applies after a beautiful back-shoulder catch: Tight end Rob Gronkowski looks like a Pro Bowler through the first three games of the season; there might not be a tight end playing better in the NFL right now.

7. In the four-receiver/one-tight end package, the Patriots handed off to Julian Edelman, who had lined up as a running back. It was a 2-yard loss. That was a different wrinkle, but obviously not the execution the Patriots wanted.

8. Receiver Wes Welker is just so steady. When the Patriots need it most, that’s where Tom Brady is looking first. Not exactly a newsflash, but Welker has once again delivered.

9. Big pass breakup by cornerback Leigh Bodden on third and short on the Bills’ opening drive of the quarter, forcing a three-and-out. Bodden had another breakup on Stevie Johnson later in the quarter. Bodden has been up and down early this season, but on those plays, he looked like the ’09 version who led the team with 17 passes defended.

10. Scary to see Bills corneback Aaron Williams helped off the field on a stretcher. He raised his right arm in the air, which was a promising sign.

11. Looks like this one will be coming down to the wire. The team that wins the critical situations in the final 15 minutes will win it.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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