That was almost a comeback for the ages.
The New England Patriots almost pulled it off. The New England Patriots almost overcame a 28-point deficit—but it didn't happen.
The Patriots were trailing 31-3 with 10:21 left in the third and came storming back to tie the game—but that's all they could do. All they could do was tie the game.
The Patriots fought back, but simply didn't have enough left in the tank to pull off the comeback against the San Francisco 49ers.
Following the loss, New England drops to 10-4 on the season and now sits one game behind the Denver Broncos for the No. 2 seed, who improved to 11-3 following their 34-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
With that being said, let's take a look at what we learned following New England's 41-34 loss against the 49ers.
1. The Patriots no longer control their destiny for a playoff bye
Following this devastating loss, the Patriots are now one game behind the Denver Broncos for the No. 2 seed.
The Patriots have games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins to close out the season while the Broncos have to play against the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Both teams arguably have an "easy" schedule remaining, which indicates that the Broncos will earn a playoff bye while the Patriots will forced to play on Wild Card weekend.
2. New England has heart
This is something I haven't seen since the dynasty years.
The Patriots have heart.
What New England did tonight was nothing short of incredible, but it was short of winning the game.
To tie a game up when trailing 31-3 early in the third quarter is absolutely remarkable, considering it's against the NFL's second-ranked defense.
With that being said, a loss is a loss—but storming back the way that they did is nothing short of promising.
3. A loss is a loss
The Patriots lost this game—it is what it is.
It doesn't show up in the win-loss column how well the Patriots stormed back when trailing by 28 points—this game only shows up as a loss.
The Patriots now will likely have to play on Wild Card weekend to start the playoffs and then either travel to Denver or Houston.
4. Fourth-and-two will forever haunt the Patriots
Much like 2009 against the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots couldn't convert on fourth-and-two—much like Sunday night late in the fourth quarter.
With the Patriots trailing by seven with under three minutes left in the game, the Patriots were forced to face a fourth-and-two but Tom Brady couldn't connect with Danny Woodhead.
5. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are huge liabilities
Granted, the conditions were poor but you can't put the ball on the ground in the biggest stage—you have to hold onto the football.
That is something that second-year running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen couldn't do.
Both Ridley and Vereen fumbled once—and both fumbles arguably cost the Patriots the game.
I hate to say it, but I have zero faith in Ridley and Vereen moving forward. Their inexperience has proven to bite them in the behind.
6. Brandon Lloyd and Tom Brady finally click
Brandon Lloyd was targeted 16 times as he reeled in 10 receptions for 190 yards, including an incredible 53 yard reception.
It's definitely promising to see Lloyd and Brady finally have a huge game together but it's too bad it came in a loss.
7. Jim Harbaugh out-coached Bill Belichick
The 49ers showed up ready to go while the Patriots looked lost.
The 49ers wanted this game more than the Patriots—that's just the way it is.
Jim Harbaugh really coached his team up, which is being led by a second-year quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, while the Patriots slow start ultimately cost them this victory.
Not many times does Bill Belichick get out-coached, but he did Sunday night.
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