Quick-hit thoughts after 3rd quarter

DETROIT – Quick-hit thoughts after the third quarter, with the Patriots and Lions tied at 24:

McCourty’s pick a biggie. Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty delivered the Patriots’ biggest play of the game on the Lions’ first possession of the half, an interception that he returned 23 yards. That set up a four-play, 26-yard touchdown “drive” and shifted the momentum back to the Patriots’ side after the Lions came out of the half strong by stopping the Patriots. The interception and ensuing touchdown evened the score at 17.

Welker’s strength shows on TD. Wes Welker’s 5-yard touchdown catch showed a different side of his game that is not often talked about – his lower-body strength. Welker caught the ball a few yards short of the goal-line and powered his way through Lions defenders to will himself in for the score. That was a good example of how Welker’s lower-body strength is returning to its form from before his torn left ACL.

Patriots lose containment on fourth-down play at goal-line . The Lions went for it on fourth down at the 1, and the Patriots were able to get to an extra defensive lineman on the field for the play, which was ideal. But the defense lost containment on the play and the Lions aggressiveness was rewarded with a touchdown.

Branch bomb for TD looked like Lions breakdown. On third-and-2, quarterback Tom Brady found receiver Deion Branch down the left sideline for a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown. It looked like a defensive breakdown by the Lions, with cornerback Alphonso Smith apparently thinking he had safety help behind him. Branch’s solid running after the catch was impressive.

Third-down stop by Fletcher & Banta-Cain. The Patriots came up with a big third-down stop on the Lions’ third drive of the quarter, with a 1-4-6 dime package covering well and forcing Shaun Hill to tuck the ball and run, and he was tackled by Dane Fletcher and Tully Banta-Cain. That led to a 46-yard Dave Rayner field-goal attempt, which was wide right.