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Notes and Observations, Week 15: 49ers Outlast Patriots in a Heavyweight Bout, 41-34

Tom Brady led an impressive comeback, but it was simply not enough to overcome their first half woes. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Unlike the Texans game on Monday, Sunday night’s match-up of the 49ers and the Patriots lived up to all the hype. It had the feel of a heavyweight fight, and looked like a bloodbath early on. The Patriots turned things on late to make the game interesting, but the 49ers were able to hold off and gain a rare December win in Foxboro.

First Half

– The 49ers came out of the gates firing. It was clear right from the start that they looked at this game as a playoff game. They were interrupting Brady early and often and as a result the Patriots’ offense never got on track.

– The first offensive drive couldn’t have gone any better for San Francisco. Their first three plays netted three first downs and it looked as though the Patriots were grossly overmatched. Of course the drive ended with a touchdown pass to Randy Moss. It was only fitting wasn’t it?

– The Tom Brady interception was a result of a great pass rush, bad blocking, and Wes Welker being slowed up in his route. Brady should have never thrown the pass but he made up for it with the touchdown-saving tackle that proved to be a key play early on.

– Because of Brady’s tackle the defense forced a fumble to stop the 49ers from scoring on that drive. The offense once again looked overmatched by the physical and athletic 49ers’ defense. They were getting to Brady, and forcing some pretty ugly passes from the usually precise quarterback.

– My man crush on Alfonzo Dennard stands firm, however those two touchdowns appeared to be his fault. On the first one to Moss, Devin McCourty bit ever so slightly to the middle, which left Moss one-on-one with Dennard, and Moss typically comes out on top in those situations. The pass to Delaney Walker appeared to catch Dennard lost in coverage. He was distracted by Vernon Davis going over the middle which allowed Walker to slip behind him and catch a wide open touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick. He went down at the end of the second with an apparent knee injury and we need to hope it isn’t serious.

– The Patriots’ offense finally looked to be gaining some momentum in the second quarter, and even converted a 4th and 4. However the drive stalled with some dropped passes, throws in the ground, and all they could manage was a field goal. The field goal was all they scored in the entire first half.

– The Ed Hochuli debacle on the punt was painful and hilarious to watch. I think everyone who watched lost valuable IQ points after it was over. Ed, it might be time to hang up the whistle.

Second Half

– The game appeared to be over with 5 minutes gone in the third quarter. The 49ers were up 31-3 and the Patriots looked beat in all aspects of the game. Then Tom Brady started to play like Tom Brady. He led an almost strictly no-huddle offense 73 yards on 13 plays. The drive ended with Danny Woodhead punching the ball in for the score.

– Danny Woodhead deserves a ton of credit. All season he has been coming up with clutch plays when his number was called and Sunday night was no different. He added a second touchdown run after another impressive no huddle drive. The 49ers were going all-in on a quarterback sneak. Instead Brady handed it off to Woodhead and he walked in for the game tying score.

– Brady extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown with his pass to Aaron Hernandez.

– How disheartening was it to come back all the way from 31-3 to tie the game, only to give it up in two plays. The kick off return was the game changer. If they tackle him in the 20-30 range of 49er territory there is a great chance the outcome of the game is different. Instead they had terrific field position and scored one play later on a catch and run by Michael Crabtree.

– The loss definitely hurts because now the Patriots are no longer in control of the #2 seed. They now need to win out and get a loss from the Broncos. They went from being in control of their own destiny to playing wait-and-see in just a week.

– This game highlighted the main weakness of the Patriots and that is going up against an athletic and aggressive defense. The first half of the game the 49ers were all over Brady and that certainly was a key factor in the outcome of the game. They have struggled in this aspect, going back to last season. It showed in the Super Bowl as well as the games against Arizona, Seattle, and Sunday against the 49ers. The Patriots were 1-3 against the AFC West this season. Never thought I would write that.

– The biggest positive is, of course, the comeback. This game looked to be completely over with just 5 minutes gone in the third quarter. The defense turned it up thanks to outstanding play from Aqib Talib, and of course, Vince Wilfork. The offense looked to switch it into another gear and put up 28 points in a flash. They showed no quit and almost pulled off an improbable win. This loss could have been a whole lot worse.


About Steve Bastek - @sbastek12

Graduate of Bridgewater State University with a BA in Communication studies. I've been a Boston sports fan all my life and enjoy having the opportunity to write about it.

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