Quick-hit thoughts after third quarter

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Entering the final quarter of play, the New England Patriots trail the Cleveland Browns 19-11. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter:

1. Browns won't go away. The Browns offense struck first in the third quarter, as quarterback Jason Campbell hooked up with tight end Gary Barnidge for a 40-yard score. On the play, cornerback Aqib Talib was flagged for an illegal use of hands to the face penalty, though it was declined. The Browns' two-point conversion try failed. After a Patriots field goal late in the quarter, Campbell hit talented second-year wide receiver Josh Gordon for an 80-yard score, as he was able to beat Talib in man coverage.

2. Gronkowski leaves game. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski left the game after catching a pass and taking a shot directly to his right leg. He appeared to be in substantial pain and was immediately carted from the field. If the injury turns out to be as serious at it looked, it would be a critical loss for the Patriots offense, which had begun to click in recent weeks. Gronkowski is out for the rest of the game.

3. Boyce stepping up. With injuries to rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce has been thrust into a larger offensive role. He's shown up well with three catches for 49 yards.

4. Offense answers late. It was the Shane Vereen show late in the third quarter, as he followed up a 50-yard catch with another catch and then a 6-yard rushing score. The drive was the Patriots' best, by far, of the day, and may be just what the team needs to kick-start a fourth-quarter comeback. The Patriots went for two following the touchdown, with Tom Brady hooking up with Julian Edelman to make it a one-score game.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the third quarter: center Ryan Wendell (holding) and cornerback Aqib Talib (illegal use of hands to the face; declined).