For two and a half quarters the New England Patriots were not the New England Patriots.
They were the Keystone Kops.
After that, though, it was vintage Patriots.
In the early 1900’s, the Keystone Kops were a comedy team that were known for their high-energy, mistake-filled routines in support of headlining comedians.
Well, I’m not sure how funny any of the 49ers really are, but the Patriots supported them plenty by bumbling and stumbling and fumbling, literally handing them the ball enroute to a sometimes comical 41-34 loss to San Francisco on Sunday night.
And just as a good comedy team should, several Patriots took turns playing the buffoon as New England had a difficult time holding onto the football.
But then, the Kops exited, stage left, and suddenly the Patriots appeared. Fashionably late, Brady began to dissect the 49ers 1st ranked defense, but ultimately there were just too many pratfalls and too much Colin Kaepernick.
Brady threw 2 interceptions, both returned deep into Patriots territory, giving Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense a short field. Running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley both coughed up the ball, Ridley’s being returned 66 yards to the Patriots 3. Frank Gore scored on the ensuing play, scooping up a Kaepernick fumble and weaving his way through the middle of the defense.
San Francisco had their share of vaudeville shorts, Kaepernick losing control of the center exchange 4 times and throwing one interception to Devin McCourty in the end zone. but he also accounted for 4 touchdowns on a 14 for 25, 216 yard performance.
The 49ers rushed for 180 yards, Frank gore leading the way with 83 yards on 21 carries. Kaepernick was essentially held in check on the ground, rushing seven times for a meager 28 yards. Michael Crabtree led the 49ers’ recievers with 7 catches for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Brady finished with 443 yards and a touchdown to go with the two interceptions, completing 36 of 65 passes as he did the majority of that damage in the second half while bringing his team back. Stevan Ridley was pulled after his fumble, replaced by Danny Woodhead who carried 12 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
Brandon Lloyd had a breakout game, catching 10 balls, two of them seemingly impossible catches, for 190 yards. Lloyd also drew a pass interference penalty that set the Patriots up for Brady’s lone touchdown pass, 5 yarder to Hernandez.
The first pick was all on Brady as he badly overthrew Wes Welker and was intercepted by safety Carlos Rodgers, and the other was on a screen intended for Aaron Hernandez that was misplayed by Hernandez, batted in the air and snatched out of the air by Defensive end Aldon Smith.
Kaepernick capitalized on both
At the 10:26 mark of the 3rd quarter, Brady’s interception to Smith set up Kaepernick at the New England 27, and he found Michael Crabtree on the first play after the pick for a 31-3 San Francisco lead. That was the last time they would see the end zone until New England tied it 31.
Trailing by that 31-3 score, Brady engineered drives of 73, 86, 66, and 92 yards in a little over a quarter, Woodhead’s one yard run capping an amazing comeback.
But with the score suddenly tied at 31 and just when the momentum had completely swung in New England’s favor, speedy 49ers running back LaMichael James returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards, making a play when San Francisco needed it the most. Kaepernick didn’t waste the opportunity, hitting Crabtree on a 38 yard TD pass for a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
With the loss, the Patriots have given up almost any chance they had of gaining the top seed in the conference, trailing Houston by two games, with just 2 games left to play. They also have fallen behind Denver for the 2nd seed.
San Francisco maintained their slim lead over the Seattle Seahawks for the lead in the NFC West with the win. They meet the Seahawks in Seattle next Thursday night, essentially for the division title.