The 49ers travel to Foxboro to face the Patriots on national television. The 49ers have not won at New England since 1992 when Steve Young was quarterbacking the team. It should be interesting to see if quarterback Colin Kaepernick can handle his toughest test of the season against a Patriots team who demolished the best team in the AFC, the Houston Texans, last week. The field will be wet and the air will be cold. We'll see what effect it has on the game today.
For those of you watching from home, the broadcast will be moved temporarily to CNBC and NBC Sports Network due to a nationally televised speech by President Barack Obama. NBC will be broadcasting the speech, therefore the move to the other NBC channels.
The 49ers win the toss and elect to differ. After a quick pass by Tom Brady, the Patriots fumble on a rush by Stevan Ridley and is recovered by the 49ers. The play is under review, however, and does not look like a legit fumble. Head official Ed Hochuli rules the runner was down before the ball came loose; still Patriots ball. The 49ers stop the Patriots on third and force the Pats to punt.
The 49ers start their first drive from their own 38 yard line. The first play is a pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree for a first down. Crabtree beat former Buccaneer Aqib Talib on the play. Another pass to Crabtree equals another first down. Crabtree must be cold because he is wearing some baggy long sleeves. The third play is another pass, this time to Randy Moss, for a first down. Moss is going against his former team tonight. Frank Gore gets his first carry on a pitch. A quick screen pass to LaMichael James is incomplete. On third and seven, Kaepernick goes deep to Moss for a touchdown. 49ers 7, Patriots 0
On the Patriots second drive, Aldon Smith nearly sacked Brady, but Brady's had was moving forward. Smith nearly sacked him again on third down, but Brady threw it away and the Patriots are forced to punt. Smith is chasing Michael Strahan's season sack record.
The 49ers go with two runs to start their second possession, but on third down the snap is botched. The 49ers must punt. This is the risk and reward with Kaepernick at quarterback: he can make plays, but is still prone to young mistakes. Botched snaps are why Alex Smith would get down so low when under center, so he would avoid such disasters.
On the first play of the Patriots third possession, the ball is intercepted by Carlos Rogers on a deep pass by Brady. Rogers returns it deep into New England territory after Brady made a touchdown saving tackle.
The 49ers fumble on second and goal, after Kaepernick completed a short pass to tight end Delanie Walker. It is ruled a turnover and then down by contact on the field, but the replay looks like it is not a catch. It will automatically be reviewed by the booth. The ruling on the field is confirmed from the booth, and the Patriots have the ball back.
The Patriots cannot do anything after the fumble though, as they go three and out and punt.
James gets his first carry of the game on the ensuing drive. James is going to be an x-factor for the team going into the playoffs. The snap is botched again on the following play. It looks like Kaepernick either can't get a hold of the wet ball or hasn't spent enough time under center. He's better from the shotgun like he played in college. The third play is an incomplete pass as Crabtree stepped out of bounds and was the first to touch the ball. Andy Lee comes on to punt, but fakes it with a direct snap to safety Dashon Goldson, who takes it 31 yards for a first down. The Hawk gets it done. Gore takes it on a read option run on first down, followed by James on the same play on second down. Third down coming up. Gore runs up the middle but does not get the first down. David Akers is on to kick the field goal of 39 yards, but misses it. The ball never hooked in and goes wide left.
The 49ers create another turnover, this time on a forced fumble by Navorro Bowman. The fumble is being automatically reviewed. The ball goes to the 49ers. They take a deep shot to Vernon Davis, but it's just barely out of his reach. Kaepernick needed a little less on that throw. Gore take it nine yards and takes a big hit. His knee buckled under him, but he gets up and runs it on third down. Gore is the definition of tough.
The 49ers face a fourth and one, and can either go for it or kick a 42 yard field goal with a struggling Akers. They go for it, but Kaepernick once again fumbles the snap. They NEED to show him how to handle a cold wet ball.
The Patriots are driving now, as the 49ers cannot capitalize on all of the opportunities they have been given thus far. This is how you let teams get back into the game. After a deep pass to Deion Branch, Tarell Brown is injured on the play. Brown broke up the pass which would have been a touchdown. Ten bucks says Brady picks on the new corner, Perrish Cox. The Patriots line up to go for it on fourth and four, but then call time out. They may punt when play resumes. The Patriots get a field goal. 49ers 7, Patriots 3
The 49ers respond and go deep and pick up a pass interference play. Talib never turned around on his coverage of Crabtree. This takes the ball into New England territory on the 43 yard line. After a Frank Gore run, Kaepernick goes deep to Walker for a touchdown. Walker makes up for his fumble earlier. 49ers 14, Patriots 3
The Patriots are forced to punt, but Ted Ginn allows the ball to touch him on the punt and the Patriots recover the fumble. The play is under review though. This looks so much like the Kyle Williams play from last year. However, the referees call holding on the Patriots, making the return null and void. Yet the referees are still discussing something. This play has become confusing. Hochuli attempts to clear up the play but makes it more confusing by mentioning illegal touching and holding on the receiving team. After a New England challenge, the 49ers retain possession. Both head coaches are now arguing the spot of the ball. This is one ugly, lengthy delay.
After the delay, Kaepernick scrambles and nearly throws an interception on the sideline trying to force the pass to Crabtree. Gore takes a run up the middle to get to third and three, but Mike Iupati is hurt on the play. Kaepernick completes a pass to Crabtree for the first down, and Gore follows it up with another run for a first down. Kaepernick completes a pass for a first down to Davis, and goes to him again with a deep ball but overthrows him. Analyst Cris Collinsworth points out that Kaepernick needs to put some touch on his throws. Kaepernick breaks open a run for a first down after nothing was open. Luckily for the 49ers, he held onto the ball. Kaepernick then gets away with one by trying to thread the needle and throws to Moss in double coverage. The pass was nearly intercepted. On second and ten from the 15, Gore takes it to the 11 yard line, setting up a third and six. The 49ers are allowing the clock to run and call timeout with 25 second left in the half. They are trying to limit the time Brady has the ball. The 49ers will also get the ball after halftime. The ball is handed to gore who takes it inside the five for a first down. The 49ers call timeout and will return with a first and goal possession. Kaepernick throws a fade route to Moss, who commits offensive pass interference. Kaepernick takes the ball and runs with it to get the 49ers back to where they had it before. Only 8 seconds left. Instead of passing, the 49ers squander another opportunity and a run goes nowhere. They now settle for a close field goal by Akers. That takes the game to halftime. 49ers 17, Patriots 3
Iupati returns to action after halftime. On third and 15, Gore gets the first down on a screen pass. The 49ers are driving now, but Kaepernick gets greedy and throws deep to Moss in endzone double coverage and the pass is intercepted.
Brandon Lloyd makes a big catch for the Patriots, who are now back in business after the interception. Lloyd started his career with the 49ers, where he either alligator-armed catches or make unbelievable plays in the air. Donte Whitner forces a fumble on Ridley and it is recovered and returned deep into Patriots territory by the Hawk, Goldson. First and goal now for the 49ers.
The ensuing play was almost a blown opportunity with a botched snap by Kaepernick, but Gore is ready and picks it up and runs it in. 49ers 24, Patriots 3
Gore is not yet the 49ers all-time leading rushing touchdown leader as that will go down as a return touchdown, not rushing.
Goldson lights up Aaron Hernandez on a deep throw, but they call a personal foul on him for hitting a defensless receiver. The 49ers then respond by getting an interception by Aldon Smith, and right away go deep to Crabtree for a score. 49ers 31, Patriots 3
The Patriots finally drive down field and get a touchdown with a Danny Woodhead run. There is still time for the Patriots to come back in this one; do not underestimate Brady. 49ers 31, Patriots 10
James has a good run for a first down. Kaepernick almost botches another snap on a handoff to Gore. It cannot be stressed enough that Kaepernick needs to learn how to take a snap from under center in wet conditions. What if it rains next week in Seattle? Either way, the 49ers are forced to give the ball back to New England. Brady still has a chance.
The Patriots are driving as Brady throws deep to relatively unknown tight end Hoomanawanui. They get inside the 10 yard line, but the 49ers hold them forcing a fourth and goal heading into the final quarter.
Justin Smith is running to the 49ers locker room, which can't be good. The Patriots score on a sneak by Brady. 49ers 31, Patriots 17
Smith comes out of the locker room. Apparently he needed an X-ray on his elbow. The 49ers go with a short pass to Crabtree and run by Gore, but do not get the first down, setting up third and four. The crowd is alive again. Kaepernick does not look at his other options and watches James the entire time, and the pass goes incomplete after miscommunication. Lee punts back to New England, who is on the verge of a comeback.
Brady goes back to work, and the Patriots are driving after converting on fourth down. They are into San Francisco territory. San Francisco calls timeout, and Brady is upset saying they did not call it before he snapped the ball. The timeout stands, however, and play will resume after the break. Brady takes a shot deep into the endzone, and gets a questionable pass interference call. The Patriots then score on first and goal on a throw to Hernandez. 49ers 31, Patriots 24
The 49ers pick up a penalty on the first play after the Patriots touchdown, and the crowd erupts because they know their team is on the verge of taking control of this game once again. At this rate, that will happen in a few plays. Gore does his best to stop the bleeding and gets a run for 12 yards. The Patriots then sack Kaepernick who couldn't throw the ball away. The play clock winds down and forces the 49ers to call timeout on third and 22. The Patriots, like I said, are about to take control of this game as the 49ers are falling apart.
The Patriots go deep to Lloyd and 49ers DB Chris Culliver gave up on the play, allowing Lloyd to catch it for a big gain. After another first down and encroachment call, the Patriots are threatening at the six yard line. Brady gets the first, and Woodhead scores the touchdown. 49ers 31, Patriots 31
James has a big kickoff return to give the 49ers great field position. Kaepernick and Crabtree follow it with a throw, catch and run for a touchdown. 49ers 38, Patriots 31
Back to back sacks by Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois hold the Patriots and force them to punt. The 49ers need to put the team away now. They almost blew it as Ginn muffed the punt but recovered.
The 49ers go three and out on run plays though. They probably should have passed at least once. Lee will be punting back to New England with Wes Welker returning.
The Patriots go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory and miss. The 49ers take over now with just over two minutes to go. They can put the dagger in the Patriots here.
There is no dagger though, as the 49ers call three straight run plays which don't even amount to a first down. At the two minute warning, Akers will attempt a short field goal. The kick is good. 49ers 41, Patriots 31
The Patriots convert on fourth down, and Aldon Smith left the field for a hurt arm but came back into the game. Just over a minute to go. The 49ers get into field goal range and immediately send Stephen Gostkowski on the field for the kick. The kick is good. 49ers 41, Patriots 34
The Patriots cannot get the onside as it goes right to Walker, who immdiately downs it. Kaepernick takes the knee and the 49ers go to 10-3-1 and clinch a playoff spot. NFC West can be clinched with a win next week at Seattle.
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