Just when you thought one of the best comebacks in NFL history was about to take place, the 49ers late touchdown strike ended New England’s hopes at a first-round bye in the playoffs as the Patriots fell to San Francisco, 41-34, in one of the wildest games you will ever see. New England now stands at 10-4 and has an uphill battle to climb to make another deep playoff run this season.
Comeback Kids – There is 10:21 left in the third quarter and the Patriots are losing by 28 points on their home field. No, this isn’t you playing your buddy in a game of Madden, this is real life. The Tom Brady-led Patriots made a comeback attempt for the ages as they were able to tie the score up at 31 with 6:43 remaining in the fourth quarter on a Aaron Hernandez touchdown catch and two Danny Woodhead touchdown rushes. But, before you knew it the 49ers put the deciding touchdown on the board due to a 62-yard kickoff return by LaMichael James, followed by a 38-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Michael Crabtree. There is something to be said, however, for the fight the Patriots showed in Sunday night’s contest. This was the last tough challenge New England will face all regular season, and instead of folding and accepting defeat, the Patriots came together and gave it there best effort. In the end, they will learn more from this loss than they would have if they were to pull out the win. But don’t tell Tom Brady that.
49ers: The Real Deal – You can analyze this game any way you want to, but give credit where credit is due. Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers did something that no one has been able to do in the last 10 years; and that is come into Foxborough and beat the Patriots in the month of December. This San Francisco bunch, led by pesky head coach Jim Harbaugh, is the real deal. They are willing to take chances (like the fake punt in the first half, for example), they are physical, and they can now beat you in a multitude of ways offensively with Kaepernick at the quarterback position. Watch out for the 49ers, because they may just be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl come playoff time.
Turnover Battle Backfires – Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a point of how important the positive turnover differential has been for the Patriots and how it will be beneficial for this team to continue winning the turnover battle each week. Well, it is no coincidence that the Patriots first loss since mid-October came on a night where they lost the all-important turnover battle. It was clear from the beginning of the game that the Patriots had no rhythm and were not playing their typical mistake-free brand of football. From a Tom Brady deep pass to Wes Welker into double coverage that was intercepted, to a crucial fumble by Stevan Ridley as the Patriots began to show a glimpse of hope of a comeback early in the second half, the Pats just didn’t have it going for most of the first three quarters of the game, and it cost them dearly in the end. While New England will most likely win the turnover battle against Jacksonville and Miami, look for this to be a key focus heading into playoff matchups against battle tested teams in the next month.
Much Needed Test – While everyone wants to learn their lesson and still find a way to win, the Patriots just didn’t play well enough to have that luxury. New England will have to learn their lesson the hard way, and that might be one of the best learning opportunities they could benefit from all season. Beside some controversial calls back when the replacement referees were still working, New England has faced very few challenges since the beginning of the season. A loss like this should bring this young team closer, as they hope to have similar success in the postseason as last year’s bunch. Either way, we should be able to see signs of growth if the Patriots come out firing in the next two weeks, as they know they can benefit from having some momentum heading into the playoffs.
What 2 Watch 4 Recap – While my prediction of a Patriots 27-24 victory was innacurrate, some of the “What 2 Watch 4” preview heading into Sunday night’s game had validity.
1. Expect the 49ers to pressure Brady more than the Texans were able too, as Tom will need to get the ball out quickly if he wants to be effective.
This did end up being accurate, as the 49ers were able to apply lots of pressure on Brady. Tom wasn’t able to find a rhythm in the first half, but he finally got his short-passing game going in the second half and this almost brought New England back for the victory..almost.
2. Kaepernick will show signs of maturity by handling some of what Belichick has to throw at him defensively, but expect at least one interception when Colin has to go to the air more than he would like.
Kaepernick ended up handling Belichick’s schemes quite well, as he threw for 4 touchdowns on the game. He did have that one interception, however, so I can hang my hat on that, I guess.
3. Brandon Lloyd will have 60 yards receiving on 4 catches with no touchdowns.
Lloyd ended up having his best game as a New England Patriot, as he recorded 190 receiving yards on 10 catches. I definitely did not see that one coming.
4. Bold Prediction: Danny Woodhead will have two touchdowns in the game, one rushing and one receiving.
While both of Woodhead’s touchdowns were on the ground, I still feel good about predicting that Danny would get in the endzone twice.
Top Note – Wes Welker became the first player in NFL history to record five 100-catch seasons after his 10 catch performance on Sunday night.
Up Next – The Patriots head to Jacksonville to take on the 2-12 Jaguars at 1:00 PM.
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