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OK... So much happened in last night's game between the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers, that I'm really not sure how to look at it. So I think I'm just going to let my brain spew out all it's thoughts and try to mold it into some kind of a fluent piece.

Firstly, the Pats lost. We finish 1-3 against the NFC this season (and winless on American soil). And we just made so many mistakes. Stevan Ridley rediscovered the bad side of his game, with 2 fumbles. Tom Brady threw two interceptions for the first time in  a single game since the loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Add to that more fumbles, and fumbles by the 49ers not recovered, and the Patriots lost the turnover battle. Badly. And it cost us.

I was worried pre-game about the Frank Gore-LaMichael James running back combination before the game. We had struggled previously against the Fred Jackson-C.J. Spiller combo against the Buffalo Bills. And I was right to be worried. The Pats couldn't stop the run all game, and although their numbers don't show it (probably because they always had such short field), but Gore really killed us.

You can talk about the second half all you like, but that first half was the worst performance I've seen in quite some time, probably since the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens a few years back. That game should have been over long before Brady even had a shot. I don't know what Brady saw on the pick by Carlos Rogers (but what a tackle, eh!). Shane Vereen came in - and fumbled. It was a wet, cold night in Foxboro, and the California guys handled it better than us. Unbelievable.

Remember about two months ago, when the talk of the town was "Tom Brady's lost it. He's not clutch anymore"? Well, that 18 minute period in the 3rd/4th quarter was a massive middle finger to the critics. When Tom Brady plays like that, it is scary. I mean, genuinely scary. During that comeback of 28 points, I don't think I heard anyone saying "...Peyton's still better". When he's like that, he's the best ever. Fact. He crushed the vaunted Niners defense into submission, and made them look like amateurs out there. I seriously could talk for hours about Tom Brady in that kind of form. A few defensive stops to help, and the Patriots had come back from the abyss and were back in it.

Then comes the kick return, and then the feeblest attempt to play defense I have ever seen from Kyle Arrington. With Alfonzo Dennard on the sideline injured, Arrington moved from the slot to outside, gave the receiver enough room to catch and turn. And then, the tackle. Tom Brady is a better tackler than Arrington based on that effort. The niners were back up, the momentum was gone, and the Pats couldn't recover.

The O-line was horrible for the first half. But when they stepped up in the 3rd quarter, it allowed Tom Brady to be Tom Brady, and the comeback was on. However, after the TD to make it 38-31, the magic had gone, and Brady was under fire again, and got sacked a few times, including twice on the crucial drive after the 49ers last TD. Brady goes as his O-line goes, and the Patriots stalled.

In reflection of this game, I was not sure what to make of it. We messed up by losing this game. We've probably lost a bye from Wildcard weekend. And it looks like we'll have an AFC North team coming into town, and then on the road to Peyton Manning... Not enviable, and not where we should be. But, I tweeted this at halftime...

Champions come back from a shocking performance. The New England Patriots came back. And if you want your day to be a less miserable one after a loss, think on that. Champions don't give up. And if there's any person who resembles a champion, it's Tom Brady. And if there's any team that resembles a champion, it's the New England Patriots.

We didn't give up. We didn't accept defeat. And that stands us in good stead, even if the result didn't.

I'm on Twitter, let me know what you think there. @BrendanAnnely


P.S. We should remember that football is, in the grand scheme of things, just a game. It certainly feels like life and death during the game, but the students and teachers of Newtown, Connecticut actually had a life or death situation on Friday. Our thoughts need to be with these people trying to deal with the most horrific of tragedies. Not to get all Bob Costas-y on you, but if you want my views on gun laws, see @PiersMorgan.

Brendan Annely 12/17/2012 07:30:00 AM Edit
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