FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick-hit thoughts after the second quarter of the Patriots’ divisional-round playoff game against the Broncos (New England leads 35-7):
1. The Patriots are in firm control.
2. Rob Gronkowski. Beast. He ties an NFL postseason record with three touchdown catches, and is only the second tight end to hit the mark.
3. Tom Brady's five touchdown passes in the first half are the most in NFL postseason history.
4. Punter Zoltan Mesko’s fine season continues. He finished third in the NFL in net punting and deposited a 40-yard gem that rolled out of bounds at the 5 early in the quarter. After a defensive stop, it set the Patriots up with a shorter field for their third touchdown.
6. More impressive play from defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. His discipline on a third-and-4 option play, in which he held his ground as Tim Tebow came to the left, then played the pitch to force Tebow inside where he had help. Ninkovich also played the option well on a pitch to Eddie Royal later in the quarter.
7. Impressive work from Broncos running back Willis McGahee. He’s turned back the clock this year.
8. Brady set a Patriots postseason record with his fourth TD pass.
9. The Brady-to-Deion Branch 61-yard touchdown catch looked a lot like the long TD reception the two had last year in Chicago –right before the half as well.
10. Tom Brady’s late first quarter interception set up the Broncos’ first touchdown. The Patriots looked primed to run away with the game at that point. The miscue, and ensuing touchdown, had the Broncos right back in it. But then the Patriots "re-exploded."
11. After two impressive opening drives, Brady has looked shaky on the third and fourth marches. He nearly was intercepted on the Patriots’ fourth march when Rob Gronkowski slipped and the ball bounced off linebacker Joe Mays.
12. Just one snap for receiver Chad Ochocinco in the first half.
13. Veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren showed up with a solid play, reading the option well and tackling Tim Tebow for a loss. After the play, Warren did the Gator chomp. As noted by ESPN’s Trey Wingo on Twitter, it was a case of Gator on Gator crime.
14. Tim Tebow has been slow to get rid of the ball, even with open receivers downfield.
16. The Broncos get the ball to open the second half.