Rain poured from the sky on a cold December night in Foxboro Massachusetts. The Patriots, winners of 7 straight controlled their own destiny in the hunt for a first round bye. However, with wins by both Denver and Houston earlier in the day, the pressure was on to keep pace and avoid falling back into third place in the AFC. With a win San Francisco would clinch a playoff birth .
At the end of the first half it was all 49ers. The Patriots went into the locker room down 17-3 and were lucky to be that close. They had gained only 113 yards of total offense, had not converted a third down in seven attempts, turned the ball over twice, and punted four times. Only 49ers miscues such as a missed 38 yard field goal, a fumble on the second play of a drive deep in Patriots territory, and a botched snap on fourth and 1 from the Patriots' 34 yard line had kept them from running away with victory.
After halftime, the 49ers forced two more takeaways on the ensuing New England possessions, and were able to capitalize on the errors by scoring two more touchdowns to make the score 31-3.
Then they began to collapse. Brady marched New England down field on four consecutive drives resulting in a Danny Woodhead 6 yard touchdown run, Brady dive into the end zone for a one yard touchdown run of his own, a 5 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez, and Danny Woodhead tied the game on a one yard run with 6:43 to play.
And with momentum on New England's side, San Francisco took the lead again. Rookie LaMichael James took the kickoff 62 yards to set up a first down in New England territory. On the ensuing play New England lined up in a cover zero and brought pressure. Kyle Arrington, playing for injured Alfonso Dennard, was left one on one to the outside against Michael Crabtree. He caught a short pass, spun around Arrington, who made a horrible attempt at a tackle, and took the ball 38 yards into the end zone.
After New England turned the ball over on downs, David Akers made a short field goal to make it a two score game. Gostkowski did add a field goal for New England but they were unable to recover an onside kick with 38 seconds to go ending the game.
Colin Kaepernick threw for four touchdown and one interception while Brady threw for 443 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in the losing effort.
Stevan Ridley continues to have ball security issues as he fumbled for the second straight week. After both he and Shane Vereen lost fumbles, they were virtually never seen on the field again, with Danny Woodhead taking nearly every snap at running back.
The 49ers move to 10-3-1 and will play Seattle next week with a chance to clinch the NFC West.
The Patriots are now 10-4 and finish the season 1-3 against the NFC West. They play their remaining two games against the Jaguars and Dolphins.
Despite the loss, Brandon Lloyd finally had a breakout game catching 10 balls for 190 yards.
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