Notes, musings, and observation from the New England Patriots' 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers
First off, I'd like to thank everybody out there who reached out to me to make sure that my family, friends and loved ones were alright following this past week's nightmare. As someone who lived in Connecticut throughout my entire childhood, I'm still in absolute shock over what occurred just a 30 minute drive from where I myself once went to elementary school. I'm very fortunate to have been unaffected by this tragedy, and I hope with every ounce of my being that everyone reading these words right now is also not directly grieving over the loss of someone close to them in Newtown, CT. And to those of you with children, please take some time today and every day to give them a hug that they will never, ever forget.
Usually, I'd be pretty upset about the result of tonight's game, and to a degree, I am. This game all but extinguished any hopes that the Patriots have of securing a first round bye, and the awful truth is that odds of them playing a playoff game in Denver are now pretty damn good. This loss also raises a lot of questions about how the Patriots should play out the rest of the season now that they are all but guaranteed a 3 seed.
But it's also pretty important to remember that, at the end of the day, it's just football. It's only a game. And after it's all said and done, this whole thing pretty meaningless. There are much, much more important things in life than dropping a game to the 49ers, and to be honest any and all sulking, gloating, pouting, or celebrating should very, very rightly fall on deaf ears today as we all turn our attention to what really matters.
OK, enough blubbering; I don't want to put a damper on these notes, which I try to keep as light and humorous as possible, even when we do lose a game.
I decided to leave all of the notes I took last night in this morning's article as punishment for doubting the resiliency and championship caliber of this team. The bulk of my notes were written under the assumption that the Patriots were getting blown out at home, and a lot of what you're about to read reflects that. It shouldn't be too hard to tell when the team turned it around, but still, shame on me for not believing that they would keep n fighting until there was .00 on the clock.
- In Bob Costas's pre-game interview with Vince Wilfork, Vince mentioned that he 100% believed that he could beat Tommy B in the 40 yard dash. I don't doubt that for a second - but I think that says more about how slow Brady is than how fast Wilfork is.
- Big Vince then went out and threw a football 60 yards. Never gonna question that guy's athleticism again.
- Right from the opening kickoff, you just knew that this game was going to feature a lot of loose footballs. I just didn't figure it would start after only two plays.
- I want to hate Randy Moss - but I just can't. He just gave me too much during his brief tenure here.
- Tonight was my first legitimate glimpse at Colin Kaepernick - I thought he was an option quarterback? What's up with all these pocket passes?
- What a massive confidence builder that first offensive drive must have been for San Francisco. I figured New England's best chance to win this one was to get into Kaepernick's head early and make him jumpy - didn't quite work out that way, did it?
- Way too commercial-free in the first quarter. That always results in a totally broken-up, TV time out riddled rest of the game - which does very little for the hurry-up offense.
- Could have done without that "21 consecutive wins in the 2nd half of the season" stat - especially since Tommy B threw a pick right after that.
- Nice tackle, though, Brady. Didn't know you had it in you.
- When NBC cut away to CNBC to make way for President Obama's speech, the Patriots were about to punt from deep in their own territory. When they cut back to NBC, the Patriots were about to punt from deep in their own territory. That pretty much sums up the first half right there.
- 2012 has to have set the record for most fake punts in a single season.
- Pats caught a ton of breaks early. This game could have been 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
- Just turnover central out there. Nobody could hold onto the ball.
- Who would have thought that, against this defense, that the player with the most YACs through two quarters would be Brandon Lloyd? I would have had money on him simply exploding in a cloud of dust after the first hit of the night.
- Atta boy, Deion Branch. As reliable as ever.
- Chris Collinsworth said that "Deion Branch has probably on and off this team more than anybody." Clearly Collinsworth has never heard of a long-haired dynamo named Ross Ventrone.
- When there are a bunch of really big guys giving you a lot of trouble, give the ball to your little guy. Makes all the sense in the world.
- Wouldn't the smart move, if you're risking your life climbing a mountain to deliver Coors Light to a hot cocktail waitress, be to bring more than three beers with you per trip? That seems like a whole lot of unnecessary work.
- How long has it been since the Patriots got flagged for a DPI call? 2 weeks? That has to be a season record.
- That second Niners touchdown just completely deflated the entire stadium, both on the field and in the stands. Confusion is probably the best way to put it: the fans couldn't figure out what was going on, and the offense couldn't figure out what the defense was doing.
- Nothing like making the fans wait for 20 minutes in the freezing rain while you stand in a circle and don't give the Pats the ball back, refs.
- One good thing about games like this one is that it wasn't much of a nail biter. Granted, I'm usually much more happy when it's over by halftime and the Patriots are winning, but I'll take losing big early over losing on some late-game heroics that leaves me lying in bed all night staring at the ceiling any day.
- Well, we may have gotten our beat at home, but at least we lost Alfonzo Dennard.
- I pretty much resigned myself to a loss after the Niners scored right before halftime to go up 17-3. And when you have resigned yourself to a loss a full half before a game is over, it significantly puts a damper on your desire to take notes on a game.
- In the past, when Tommy B hasn't been at his best, somebody else stepped up and made the plays necessary to keep the Patriots in it. That didn't happen this time.
- Absolutely monster interception by McCourty to start the 2nd half. Poor throw by Kapernick, as Moss was blanketed, but New England needed that turnover in the worst way.
- Of course, immediately fumbling the ball away didn't help any. Son of a...
- Point in the game where my attention was evenly divided between the game and my YouTube search for "wake up pranks:" When a 49er fumble turned into a 49er touchdown. We got to be on the receiving end of it last week, and we had it shoved down our throats this week. That's life, I guess.
- Credit to the fans for at least staying loud. That's a vast improvement over what the crowd has done in the past.
- Tough to come back from a three score deficit against a great defense with a great running back.
- Sorry...did I say three? I meant four. Silly me!
- White flag! White flag! Abandon ship! Get the starters out of this game ASAP!
- Seriously - would anyone have been upset if the Patriots just went into a Jumbo Set and just ran it every play to keep the clock running so everyone could just get the hell out of there?
- What exactly did the Rams do - TWICE! - against this team that the Patriots simply couldn't do?
- Chris Collinsworth had a great quote late in the 3rd: "Sometimes the worst thing that could happen to a team is to have everybody telling you all week that you're gonna win the Super Bowl." Amen to that. I'm just as guilty as anyone as well.
- Shame on you, Tommy, for getting my hopes up to start the 4th quarter. You got me thinking that we might have a game here.
- Wait...do we have a game here?
- Why did it take until the 4th quarter for the camera to show some drunk idiot with his shirt off? You figure that's the first thing you show for a game like this.
- Is it me, or did Tommy B look faster than normal on that scramble to set up 1st and goal?
- What the hell is going on? Where am I? Where is my beer? Tie game???
- Aaaaand I'm miserable again. That was fast.
- Pat Chung bit on something on the Crabtree touchdown. I have absolutely no idea what, but he bit on it hard.
- Was there one 49ers punt that didn't have a New England holding penalty attached to it?
- 29% on drives of 80 yards or more? Not a big fan of that stat.
- A West Coast team just flew east, to New England, in December, in the rain, and beat the Patriots. Please excuse me as I take a moment to allow this information to sink in.
It was one hell of a rally, but in the end the Patriots fell short. It always sucks to know that Tommy B had the ball in his hands with a chance to tie it late, and he couldn't get it done. But all the credit in the world goes to the 49ers, who 100% deserved to win this game. While the momentum went back and forth between the halves, what it ultimately came down to is that the better team won the game, plain and simple. San Fran's defense played better than New England's offense, and San Fran's offense played better than New England's defense. That's really all there is to it. You take the loss, you learn from it, and all you can really do is hope for the opportunity that the Patriots will get the opportunity to play the Niners again.
Or not have to play them ever again. I'd certainly be happy with that result as well.
Hat's off to you, San Franscisco. You came into our house and imposed your will. Enjoy this well-deserved win, and hopefully we'll see you in New Orleans.