Quick-hit thoughts from third quarter

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Entering the final quarter of play, the Patriots lead the Bills 31-24. Passing along notes and observations from the third quarter of play.

1. Offensive line thinning. Starting right guard Dan Connolly has left the game with a back injury, and his return to the game is questionable. That pushed Donald Thomas into his spot, and after Logan Mankins got up slowly on a third-down play, he was replaced by Nick McDonald on the following drive. That leaves Marcus Cannon as the lone healthy reserve player for the Patriots. The word on Mankins, via the team, is that he has an ankle injury and he is also questionable to return.

2. Woodhead scores, again. For the second time today, running back Danny Woodhead found the end zone, this time by way of the air. Woodhead took a Tom Brady pass 18 yards and in for the touchdown, expanding the Patriots' lead to 14 points at the time. It was in Week 4 against Buffalo that Woodhead scored his first receiving touchdown of the season, and he has now has three scores in total on the season. His ability to be a run-after-catch receiver is paramount to this offense. Today marks the first time in Woodhead's career that he has multiple touchdowns in a single game.

3. Fitzpatrick piling up yards. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is having a productive day with 235 passing already; more importantly for Buffalo, he has not thrown an interception today. He threw four interceptions against New England back in Week 4. When Fitzpatrick can control his turnovers, he has proven to be an effective starting quarterback; unfortunately for Buffalo, consistency has been a major issue. The same could be argued for the Patriots' secondary, which has struggled throughout the game.

4. Buffalo hanging tight. Unlike the last time these two teams played, the Bills have hung tough in the second half. It starts with clock-controlling drives that have kept the Patriots' offense off of the field and an ability to extend drives on both third and fourth down. The Bills have also, as previously alluded to, cut down on turnovers. The stakes are high for Buffalo today, as a win would allow the Bills to crawl back within one game of first place in the AFC East. A loss, by contrast, would effectively bury them four games behind the Patriots in standings, as New England would have swept the season series.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were called for penalties during the third quarter: linebacker Brandon Spikes (offsides; penalty was declined).