It's been a very back-and-forth game in Washington so far, but one that seems to follow a schedule:
1. Patriots' secondary plays terribly, allowing Redskins to score at least three points.
2. Rob Gronkowski does something amazing, allowing Patriots to score at least three points.
3. Referees make remarkably bad calls, there is much gnashing of teeth.
The third quarter was for the most part no different, albeit with a bit of Wes Welker and a twist ending.
It was the aforementioned Welker who got the Patriots rolling to start the third quarter, picking up two quick receptions and drawing a pass interference call on DeAngelo Hall, who gave up 15 more free yards when he picked up the yellow flag and hurled it downfield. A holding penalty on Matt Light set up a 2nd-and-12 which seemed likely to stall the drive, but after Tom Brady overthrew Rob Gronkowski on second down, he made a soft touch pass over Gronkowski's shoulder, setting him loose. First dragging Ryan Kerrigan behind him, than leaving him in the dirt, Gronkowski once again broke off a big run-after-catch, this time for his second touchdown of the game.
The Patriots seemed poised to get a stop on the ensuing Washington drive, but once again the referees reared their ugly heads. When Evan Royster tripped and fell on a screen pass, Vince WIlfork made the tackle to leave him down by contact...and drew a flag. In the opinions of the referee, Wilfork's arm in Royster's back was too rough for the NFL, and so the Redskins were set up with free first down in the red zone. One terrible bit of coverage from James Ihedigbo in the end zone later and it was all tied up.
Not content to give their defense any time to rest, Tom Brady and the offense took the field again, and made quick work of their drive. After converting one set of downs, Brady found Aaron Hernandez about eight yards from the line of scrimmage. With a couple of jukes, the tight end quickly turned it into 29, bringing the Patriots into Washington territory. The next strike went to Wes Welker for 16 yards, as did the third, with Welker breaking a run into the end zone this time to make it 34-27.
That's when the twist ending came in. While it looked like business as usual for the Patriots' defense on the next drive, quickly letting the Redskins find their way into New England territory, a surprising pair of incomplete passes from the Skins left Washington forcd to punt for the first time in a long while. New England will start the fourth quarter with a chance to actually take a two score lead.