Quick-hit thoughts after third quarter

With just one quarter left to play, the New England Patriots trail the Houston Texans 24-21. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter:

1. Offense strikes first. The Patriots wasted no time getting going in the second half, as they needed just over two minutes to score their second touchdown of the game. A long pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski followed by a throw to Shane Vereen set up the Patriots on the Texans' 1-yard line. Fullback James Develin would get his second carry of the game and break several tackles to lunge in for the touchdown, the first of his career.

2. Then grabs lead. The Patriots got it going on their second offensive drive as well, as Brady found Vereen for an easy score after cruising down the field without much resistance. The Patriots have scored touchdowns on each of their first two second-half drives over the past three games. Their recent offensive efficiency coming out of the locker room at halftime has been simply remarkable.

3. Run defense remains an issue. While the offense has gotten back on track, the run defense continues to struggle. The Texans had just two rushing touchdowns for the season entering the game, but they've surpassed that total already, as quarterback Case Keenum dashed into the end zone for a 5-yard score to put the Texans back up 24-21. The Patriots are down several substantial bodies, but they'll need to find a way to build the wall better as the season continues.

4. Edelman a receiving bright spot. Wide receiver Julian Edelman continues his stellar season, as he's now up to 67 catches in 2013. He needs 70 catches in total this season to reach a maximum incentive of $250,000. With all the moving parts in the receiving corps this season, Edelman has proved to be an indispensable and trusted target for Brady.

5. Penalty box. No Patriots were flagged for a penalty during the third quarter.