It started off well, really well in fact. The 49ers jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 24 yard TD from Colin Kaepernick to of all people, Randy Moss. Another David Akers missed field goal from 39 yards out would loom large later on in the game. The 49ers did what they had to to in bothering Tom Brady and were able to create turnovers against the Patriots, and get points off those turnovers.
A touchdown pass to Delanie Walker and a chip shot 20 yard field goal from David Akers would put the score at 17-3 at halftime. The 49ers were on cruise control at this point. After taking possession following halftime the 49ers drove down the field, but Kaepernick was intercepted in the end zone. On the following drive though a fumble and a 66 yard return would set up the 49ers next score, and it was a bizarre one.
Colin Kaepernick fumbled the snap from the 3 yard line but Frank Gore alertly scooped the ball up and rushed against the grain for the score. That made it 24-3, this was becoming something of a rout.
The very next play from scrimmage was an interesting one though, Aaron Hernandez was targeted by Tom Brady but couldn’t bring the pass in. He was leveled by the 49ers defender, who was hit with a 15 yard penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver. The very next play though went to Hernandez again, and he was clearly a little tentative in trying to catch the ball, it was deflected in the air and intercepted by Aldon Smith. The very next play was a 27 yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. The 49ers had a stunning 31-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.
That’s when things turned, the sleeping giant that is the highest scoring offense in the NFL came to life. The next 4 drives saw the Patriots reach the end zone, and the 49ers punted on each of their drives. Just like that the New England Patriots had erased a 28 point deficit. Much of this rally coincided with the apparent elbow injury to Justin Smith, how much that effected the 49ers defense is unclear, but it certainly didn’t help.
Once the game was tied, the 49ers stormed back on the heels of a 62 yard kickoff return by LaMichael James. The next play took care of the other 38 yards as Michael Crabtree found the end zone for the second time. The 49ers took another lead that they would not relinquish this time. A field goal on either side would put the final score at 41-34.
Aldon Smith had a very quiet day in terms of tackling, though he did have that interception which was the first of his career. He still sits at 19 1/2 sacks, but has some company as Houston’s J.J. Watt recorded 3 sacks and has 19 1/2 of his own.
With this win the 49ers have guaranteed themselves a spot in the NFC playoffs, and can clinch the NFC West title with a win over the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday night. That game will not be any easier than this one was, and playing in Seattle is one of the toughest tasks in the NFL. We head to week 16 as the 49ers play once again in the spotlight in a tough NFC West battle.