Quick-hit thoughts after 2nd quarter

DENVER – Quick-hit thoughts after the second quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Broncos (New England leads 27-16):

1. Patriots' mental toughness shines through. They were getting hammered early, but as they've shown throughout the year, they're a tough knockout. That's a 20-point second quarter for the Patriots.

2. Should Bill Belichick have challenged Aaron Hernandez’ potential touchdown catch in the end zone with four points at stake? It would have been tough to overturn, but seemed worthy of a challenge given the points at stake.

3. Strong first half from Hernandez. He’s been the best offensive player on the field. Running back Danny Woodhead also has been a bright spot.

4. Little-used defensive lineman Ron Brace looked like he got his hand in to force a big Lance Ball fumble, as linebacker Dane Fletcher was wrapping up. The Patriots turned it into a field goal. That’s Brace’s biggest impact this season.

5. Mark Anderson, playing in place of the injured Andre Carter, delivered with a forced fumble and recovery on Tim Tebow. Anderson has been a solid free-agent pickup this year.

6. Those turnovers changed the complexion of the game. They also allowed the defense to gain some confidence after the unit was gashed early.

7. Broncos have gotten the better of the line of scrimmage. In short yardage, the Patriots have mostly gone to the pass.

8. The brilliance of Tom Brady was on display on fourth-and-1 when he tripped dropping back from center on play-action, gained enough control, and fired a strike to Hernandez for the conversion. It was a play in which the Patriots had their jumbo package on the field but surprised with the pass. Well done.

9. Brady delivered a Rob Gronkowski-like spike after his 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak. A lot of emotion from Brady.

10. Wes Welker tied Stanley Morgan (534) for the second most receptions in Patriots history. Troy Brown holds the franchise record with 557.

11. Brady has thrown 35 touchdown passes this season. He joins Brett Favre as the only NFL quarterbacks to do so three times in their career.

12. The Patriots get the ball to start the second half.