While the 49ers or the Patriots might not want to face each other in the Super Bowl, the NFL certainly would like to see a rematch in New Orleans.
In perhaps the craziest game of the regular season, the San Francisco 49ers survive a 28 point comeback by Tom Brady and that New England Patriots’ offense and win it 41-34 on a rainy Sunday Night in Foxborough. After the Patriots managed to tie the game with 6:43 left in regulation, LaMichael James returns the ensuing kickoff to the NE 38 and then on the first play of the drive, Michael Crabtree gets a 38 yard touchdown reception on a curl route that gave the 49ers the lead right back, a lead they would not lose again.
On their next two drives, the Patriots would have to punt and then failed to convert a 4th and 1 on a pass overthrown to Danny Woodhead. The 49ers would then force the Patriots to take their final two timeouts and then had David Akers kick a 28 yard field goal to give San Francisco a 10 point lead.
The Patriots would get it back with 1:56 to go and drove down field for a 41 yard Field Goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 38 seconds left. Delanie Walker of the 49ers would recover the onside kick and then Colin Kaepernick kneed it for one play to end the game. San Francisco is now 10-3-1 clinching a playoff spot with the win while the Patriots are now 10-4 and fall behind the Denver Broncos for the 2nd seed in the AFC.
“Our team has now hung in in a lot of big-time pressure games,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “They’ve overcome adversity. They’ve shown they can do that.”
Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 216 yards and 4 Touchdowns in this one, managed to hit Randy Moss for a 24 yard TD on San Francisco’s first drive. That was also the first points for either team. Moss had only two catches on the night for 36 yards and both receptions were on that first drive. That TD catch got Moss past Isaac Bruce on the all time receiving yards list as he is now 3rd all time with 15,219 career receiving yards.
The rest of the 1st quarter was marred by miss snaps by Kaepernick and his Center Jonathan Goodwin and turnovers for both sides. One turnover was an interception thrown by Brady which was picked off by Carlos Rogers and taken back to the NE 5. Delanie Walker of the 49ers would then fumble after a catch which was recovered by Aqib Talib. New England would punt on the following drive which was followed by a missed 39 yard FG by Akers. Then Pats RB Shane Vereen would fumble the ball after a catch which was recovered by 49ers CB Chris Culliver.
After a bad snap on a 4th and 1 by the 49ers which gave the Pats the ball, New England scored their first points early in the 2nd quarter with a 32 yard FG by Stephen Gostkowski. That was answered by the Colin Kaepernick throwing a 34 yard TD pass to Delanie Walker going 80 yards in 3 plays. The 49ers would then get the ball one more time before the half and managed to get a 20 yard field goal by David Akers as time expired giving them an 14 point lead.
3rd quarter had more madness. The 49ers had the ball first and Kaepernick threw his only pick of the day as Devin McCourty made the interception in the Patriots end zone. However, the ensuing Pats drive was cut short due a fumble by Stevan Ridley forced by 49ers Safety Donte Whitner which was recovered by Deshon Goldson and taken to the NE 6. The 49ers had it on the NE 3 because of a low block penalty called on Logan Mankins of the Patriots and scored a TD after Frank Gore picked up another bad snap fumble and took it in for six on the same play.
Tom Brady then threw his 2nd interception of the day being picked off by Aldon Smith after Aaron Hernandez couldn’t catch the throw. Smith had no sacks on the day with the one pick returned for 6 yards. Next play, Kaepernick throws a 27 yard TD down the middle to Michael Crabtree to get a 28 point lead. Crabtree would finish the game with 7 catches for 107 receiving yards and two TD receptions.
Brady and the offense then found their rhythm and they scored 28 unanswered points to tie the game. The 49ers offense was shut down and on 4 consecutive drives, the Pats scored Touchdowns. First a 6 yard TD run by Danny Woodhead. Then followed by a QB sneak TD by Brady extending his hands for the score on a 4th and 1. Then a 5 yard TD pass to Aaron Hernandez followed by a 1 yard TD run by Woodhead. All impressive drives the 49ers could not stop it due to sloppiness and partly Justin Smith’s elbow injury taking him out of the game.
Tom Brady finished the game throwing the ball 65 times for 36 completions, 443 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. The receivers also started to come alive with Brandon Lloyrd getting 10 catches in this game for 190 yards, 10 catches for Aaron Hernandez for 92 yards and that TD, and 5 catches for Wes Welker (all in the 2nd half) for 56 receiving yards. Still, it wasn’t enough.
“We just spotted them 28 points,” Brady said. “We fought hard, but you can’t play poorly against a good team and expect to win. We can’t miss plays that we have opportunities with.”
The 49ers special teams help bring life to San Francisco with LaMichael James returning the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the NE 38 which was followed by Crabtree’s 2nd TD catch to give San Francisco the lead. Harbaugh called the return by James a “Tremondous run, huge play, huge play in the game.” James also had considerable runs getting 8 carries for 31 yards in Foxborough.
The next two drives by New England were stifled by the pressure finally getting put back on Brady. Two sacks by Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois forced the Pats to punt the ball on one of those drives. The 49ers hit Brady 7 times in this game and got one other sack in the first half by McDonald.
New England had more yards in this contest with 520 overall yards compared to San Francisco’s 383. Rushing was still dominated by the 49ers with 180 total yards on the ground with 83 of those coming from the legs of Frank Gore. Turnovers were a plenty for both sides and might’ve been the tipping point with 4 committed by the Patriots and 2 committed by the 49ers.
This win gives the 49ers a huge boost. While they did get sloppy on defense, San Francisco showed they can win a high scoring bout.
“We can win a shootout,” Michael Crabtree said. “Whatever it takes, that’s our motto. … We feel like we can do anything, sky’s the limit.”
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Written by Daniel Trucios