Quick-hit thoughts after third quarter

Entering the final quarter of play, the Patriots trail the Lions 26-3. Passing along some quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter:

1. Mix of starters and reserves on defense to open second half. Head coach Bill Belichick suggested earlier in the week that his starters might play into the second half, and the Patriots, who opened on defense, had a sprinkling of starters to go along with reserve-level players on the field. The result for the defense wasn't good, as the Lions easily navigated for a touchdown drive to open a 23-3 lead.

2. Brady pulled after first half. Offensively, Ryan Mallett was under center to start the third quarter for the Patriots, as well as a host of other reserves for the Patriots. It was an up-and-down showing, as he completed 4 of 12 passes, but had a nice scramble on a third down to move the chains. He also misfired on too many throws that he should have connected on.

3. Thompkins continues to shine. Rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins has been the best receiver on the field tonight, totaling eight catches for 126 yards already. He's seemingly solidified his spot as one of the team's top three options at the position.

4. Situational football emphasis. Belichick has stressed the importance of situational football throughout the preseason, and he re-emphasized that late in the quarter, opting to go for it on a fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line. The score is inconsequential in this game, so Belichick opted to let his offense get one more shot at the end zone rather than settle for a field goal.

5. Penalty box. No Patriots were called for penalties during the third quarter.