Quick-hit thoughts from third quarter

DENVER -- With 15 minutes left to play, the New England Patriots trail the Denver Broncos 20-3. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter.

1. Broncos score first. The Broncos used a prolonged drive to widen the gap early in the third quarter, going 80 yards on a drive that spanned more than seven minutes to extend their lead to 20-3. It was their longest drive of the season. Peyton Manning hooked up with Demaryius Thomas on a short touchdown pass, putting Thomas up over 100 receiving yards on the game.

2. Still no Talib. Cornerback Aqib Talib has yet to return to the game, though the team did announce that upon further medical evaluation, his injury is actually to his knee and not the ribs. The Patriots have been relying on Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington as their top trio of cornerbacks without Talib.

3. Pats fail on fourth down. The Patriots got something going offensively, but facing a fourth-and-3 from the Denver 28, Tom Brady was sacked by Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. That gave the ball back to the Broncos.

4. Pats needing a big play. Down three scores and with the defense undermanned without Talib, the Patriots are in major need of a big play, be it a long play on offense or a turnover defensively. Something to kick-start what would be a historical fourth-quarter comeback.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the third quarter: cornerback Logan Ryan (pass interference; offsetting penalties).