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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Quick-hit thoughts after 2nd quarter

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts after the second quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Colts (New England leads 17-3):

1. More of a struggle than anticipated for the Patriots, but they are still in command. Solid situational football at the end of the second quarter -- getting the stop on D and then driving for a touchdown when getting the ball on their 40 with 1:38 to play and two timeouts -- has the Patriots in good position. That swing at the end of the second quarter looks like the decisive part of the game at this point.

2. Both teams had long drives in the first half -- the Colts with an 19-play march that ate up more than 10 minutes, the Patriots with a 16-play drive that chewed up 6:40. That contributed to a quick half and a game that has become one in which the teams have fewer drives (four apiece when kneeldown not included) so mistakes are magnified.

3. The defense continues to give up yards (unit ranks 32nd in the NFL in yards allowed) but comes up big in the red zone (ranked 11th in the NFL in points allowed). The Colts had an impressive second drive, which was 19 official plays, but the Patriots came up with the stop after the Dan Orlovsky-led offense advanced to the goal line. The drive ended in a field goal, which was a victory for the New England defense.

4. Boos for Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri as he came on for a 31-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

5. Julian Edelman was used as the primary kickoff returner, replacing Danny Woodhead. That's double duty for Edelman as he's also handing punt returns.

6. Ten snaps for receiver Chad Ochocinco in the first half (including penalties). He received a standing ovation when he made a catch in the second quarter, and it was a big one because it gave the Patriots a first down on their scoring drive. He later couldn't corral a pass up the left sideline that would have been a nice play. Ochocinco is playing in the hurry-up today, which is a good sign for him.

7. Tiquan Underwood (3 snaps, 1 catch) and Edelman (2 snaps, 0 catches) have also taken some reps as the No. 3 receiver.

8. Matt Light’s holding penalty could have hurt the Patriots on their third drive, which set up a third-and-15 situation, but Tom Brady’s connection to Wes Welker for 18 yards bailed the offense out. That was a big play in the first half.

9. Welker passed Irving Fryar (5,726) to move into third place in receiving yards in franchise history with one of his second-quarter receptions.

10. Brady has thrown a touchdown pass in 28 straight games, extending his franchise record.

11. Brady threw his 290th career touchdown pass, which ties him with Johnny Unitas for seventh most all-time.

12. Rob Gronkowski’s 12th touchdown catch ties with four others for second most in a season by a tight end (NFL mark, not Patriots).

13. Although rookie Nate Solder started at right tackle in place of injured Sebastian Vollmer, he is still being utilized as a tight end at times. That has rookie Marcus Cannon taking his place at right tackle, and requires Solder to leave the field for a play before he can come back on the line. Solder played four snaps as a tight end in the first half. Cannon has played six snaps at right tackle.

14. For an 0-11 team coming on the road, the Colts are playing hard. But they are outmanned.

15. The Patriots get the ball to open the second half.