SFI's LIVE Game Blog: 49ers vs. Patriots

It's a big day for the 49ers as they face the defending AFC champion New England Patriots while former NFL MVP quarterback Steve Young gets his number retired at halftime, and SFI is on hand to keep you up to date on all the action with live reports and commentary from Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

12:45 p.m. Greetings, 49ers fans. Despite the team's nosedive in New Orleans last week, there is genuine excitement in the air here today with the 49ers getting an opportunity to gauge themselves against the vaunted Patriots, the team coming off the 16-0 regular season and third visit to the Super Bowl in five years. The parking lot here at Candlestick was sold out a full two hours before the game today. We haven't seen that kind of thing happen here for a while ...

12:50: You've got to love the matchup of coaching minds here today – and we're talking specifically about the offensive genius of 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz and the defensive mastery of New England head coach Bill Belichick. But could this game be decided by how well coach Mike Nolan's defensive gameplan can keep the high-powered New England offense in check now that quarterback Tom Brady no longer is a part of it? We can't wait to see ...

12:52: This is the first trip to Candlestick Park for the Patriots during Belichick's nine-year tenure in New England. He has had an extra week to prepare for the 49ers and their new-and-improved offense under Martz, and Belichick's Patriots have won the game after their bye week in each of the past five seasons ...

12:55: Remember Feb. 3, 2002? That's when Belichick's upstart Patriots pulled off one of the shocking upsets of the Super Bowl era, stunning Martz's St. Louis Rams to begin the rise of the New England dynasty. The Rams weren't heard from much again as a NFL power after that, while the Pats have since won two more Super Bowls while becoming one of the true enduring powerhouse teams in NFL history. We wonder how much that game still is wedged in the back of the minds of those coaches today ...

1:01: This team is a long way from the days of Steve Young – can you believe it has been nine seasons since he played his last snap for the 49ers – but isn't it great to see him here to get his number retired today? Young is truly one of the great players – and great guys – in 49ers history. Nobody in team annals is more deserving of the honor. Of course, there are several guys who are just as deserving, and one of them – he wore No. 80 – will be getting his jersey retired in the seasons to come ...

1:12: Linebackers Takeo Spikes and Jeff Ulbrich and wide receiver Arnaz Battle are the 49ers' team captains for today, and they head out to the midfield logo for the coin flip, which is won by the Patriots, who call tails. New England defers and will kick off, defending the north goal …

1:16: The 49ers take the opening kickoff and go three-and-out as quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan just misses a wide-open Delanie Walker on second down, then is chased out of the pocket and has to throw the ball away on third down. Andy Lee punts it away, and the New England offense goes to work behind quarterback Matt Cassel …

1:20: Huge play by the San Francisco defense! The Patriots rumble for a quick first down, but when Cassel goes back to pass on the next play, he is hit as he attempts to go long. The ball flutters into the arms of linebacker Takeo Spikes, who returns it to the New England 45. The 49ers are in business …

1:23: And then they're not. On first down, O'Sullivan looks to go long for Walker down the field. He is covered closely by safety Brandon Meriweather, who bats the ball into the air as it arrives near the goal line and both Walker and Meriweather fall to the ground. Meriweather falls on his back, and the ball gratuitously falls right into his hands for an interception. Just like that, the Patriots have the ball back, though they're backed up in the shadow of their own end zone …

1:27: The 49ers stone the New England offense once again as running back Laurence Maroney is stopped for no gain on second down after gaining four yards one player earlier, and an inside shovel pass from Cassel to Wes Welker goes nowhere on third down. Punter Chris Hansen sends a weak kick toward the right sideline, where Nate Clements is waiting. Clements handles the punt, reverses field and returns the kick 13 yards to set up the 49ers at the 30 …

1:33: Given the great field position, the San Francisco offense quickly puts the ball in the end zone. After a defensive holding penalty gives the 49ers a first down on third-and-2 – O'Sullivan would have picked up the first anyway without the penalty on a scramble – O'Sullivan drops back and fires into the end zone just as he is being hit from the blind side by blitzing linebacker Adalius Thomas, who isn't picked up on the play. But O'Sullivan threads a perfect pass to Frank Gore, who has turned out of the backfield and beaten cornerback Ellis Hobbs on the play. Gore makes the catch, and the 49ers draw first blood, which is exactly what they needed to do against this opponent …
49ers 7, Patriots 0

1:38: The lead is – shall we say – rather short-lived. After a nice kickoff return by Hobbs, a fired-up San Francisco defense does a good job of stuffing the Patriots on the next two plays as the crowd roars its approval. But on third-and-8, with Cassel in the shotgun, the 49ers somehow allow Randy Moss to run right behind their defense. Moss, coming out of the slot in a tight formation, blows right past cornerbacks Nate Clements and Walt Harris – who or both on the same side of the field in coverage – and easily reels in a deep pass from Cassel. Moss is not going to be caught, and he strolls into the end zone to complete a stunning 66-yard scoring play. Obviously, the 49ers haven't quite solved their problems in deep coverage that cropped up last week in New Orleans. And just like that, the Patriots are even again on the scoreboard …
49ers 7, Patriots 7

1:46: Talk about answering right back. Allen Rossum bursts down the left sideline for a 34-yard return of the ensuing kickoff that sets up the San Francisco offense at its 36-yard line. From there, O'Sullivan and Co. go right to work. Gore ploughs over the right side for four yards on first down. On the next play, O'Sullivan steps up in a collapsing pocket and finds Isaac Bruce wide open on the left side, and Bruce turns it into a 38-yard play before he is brought down. Gore then bursts over left end for 16 yards before he is pushed out of bounds. On the next play, O'Sullivan takes a short drop and finds Bruce in the back of the end zone for a six-yard scoring play. Wow. It's a quick-striking, four-play, 64-yard touchdown drive, and the 49ers go back ahead by a touchdown after kicker Joe Nedney adds the extra point …
49ers 14, Patriots 7

1:53: Perhaps a bit perturbed by the last New England possession, the San Francisco defense steps up. With a few nice runs, the Patriots crank out a couple of first downs and move from their 24 to the San Francisco 44. But they go no further as Cassel is sandwiched by Tully Banta-Cain – active in a game for the first time this season – and Parys Haralson for a six-yard sack. Great stop by the San Francisco D. The Patriots have to give up the ball …

1:59: After the first quarter ends and the two teams changes sides of the field, O'Sullivan just misses Bruce on a deep out pattern on third-and-long. The throw was there, but Bruce turned a bit late for it and couldn't adjust as he got his hands on it while turning backwards. Andy Lee sends a 45-yard punt off the side of his foot that gets a good roll, and New England begins its next series at its own 34 …

2:06: How do you like that! Clements, a quality cornerback if there ever was one, isn't going to let Moss get behind him this time. LaMont Jordan powers for nine yards to begin the series for the Patriots, then picks up the first down with a short run on the next play. With a new first down, Cassel drops back to pass and again attempts to unload a deep ball to Moss. But Clements is there, and when the ball holds up at the San Francisco 5-yard line, he is there to grab the interception as Moss makes no play on the ball. Another big play by the San Francisco defense, and its second interception of Cassel in the first 17 minutes of action …

2:11: The 49ers can't get the ball out as O'Sullivan is quickly flushed from the pocket on third down and has to throw incomplete. Lee punts it back to the Patriots, who begin this drive at their own 43 …

2:23: The Patriots are finding some room to run between the tackles now, and they take the ball to a first down at the San Francisco 16. But the Niners stiffen on third down, and Cassel is trapped in the pocket, where he runs into tackle Nick Kaczur and then is bear-hugged to the ground by tackle Ray McDonald, who gets credit for a five-yard sack. The Patriots have to settle for a field-goal attempt by kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who nails a routine xx-yarder to end a 13-play, 40-yard drive that ate six minutes, 16 seconds off the scoreboard and gets the Patriots back within four points …
49ers 14, Patriots 10

2:28: The 49ers go to Gore on their next series, and he picks up nine yard-earned yards up the middle on two carries to set up third-and-1. But Gore is hit in the backfield as the 49ers try a trap to the right side on that play, and the Pats stuff him for a loss. It's a quick three-and-out for the 49ers, and the ball goes right back to New England …

2:30: On the ensuing punt, the 49ers are flagged for having an illegal man downfield, and the Pats take the penalty. It turns out to be a break for the 49ers as Lee, punting from the shadow of his end zone on the re-kick, blasts an 82-yard punt that bounces into the end zone for a touchback. The Patriots have to start at their 20 instead of much further up field, where they would have started if they'd not taken the penalty …

2:35: The Patriots work the ball to their 48, where they have a first down at the two-minute warning. The ball is now at the San Francisco 28 after two quick first downs, and the Patriots take their first time out with 1:04 to play before halftime …

2:40: The 49ers have to respect Moss and his speed, and his 14-yard gain on a quick out gives New England a first down at the 14 as the sun breaks through the cloudy mist that has enveloped the stadium. Facing third-and-6, Cassel is trapped in the backfield for a sack by Justin Smith, but Smith is flagged for grabbing the QB's facemask. That moves the ball half the distance to the goal line and gives the Pats a gratuitous first-and-goal from the 7 with the clock winding down …

2:42: With seven seconds remaining on the clock, the Patriots run it right up the gut with Kevin Faulk, who takes the ball into the end zone as the 49ers are pushed back in their defensive interior. That completes a crowd-silencing 12-play, 80-yard drive that puts New England in the lead at halftime – the Patriots' first lead of the game. And they get the ball first to begin the second half …
Patriots 17, 49ers 14

2:47: The stage for Young's ceremony is set up for Young's ceremony within minutes after the players have left the field. Former Pro Bowl tight end Brent Jones – Young's former roommate – introduces the great QB by saying, "He could destroy you with his left arm, and then he could turn around and destroy you with his legs. And he was a brilliant field general." Isn't that the truth …

2:53: "I don't know what the greatest memory would be as I proudly wore No. 8 in this stadium," Young said during a short speech, as he rattled off several of his favorite memories that took place here at Candlestick. "But I can say I'm grateful to all the Faithful for all the memories they've given me here. … Go 49ers!"

2:56: And just like that, the stage came down, and today's 49ers strolled back onto the field. They need to pick it up to do Young right by making this day in his memory a winning one …

2:58: Buoyed by the final drive of the half, the Patriots have rolled to a 233-108 advantage in total yards at the half. New England's 20:03 to 9:57 edge in time of possession also is indicative of how the Patriots have taken control of the game despite the tight halftime margin …

3:01: Great start to the second half for the 49ers.The Patriots get pushed back by a penalty on the kickoff, then the pocket collapses on Cassel, who is sacked by Isaac Sopoaga for a seven-yard loss on first down that has the Pats looking at a lot of field ahead of them to keep the drive moving …

3:03: But the Patriots, facing a second-and-17 hole from their 14, get out of it. Faulk makes a sweet cut upfield to pick up 10 yards on a swing pass on second down, then Cassel hits Welker for 12 yards on third down as the Pats move forward. …

3:11: New England keeps it moving into San Francisco territory, chewing up both time and yards. But with the Pats facing third-and-8 at the 40, the defense steps up. Cassel is sacked by Patrick Willis, New England is called for holding on the play, and the Pats suddenly have to punt just when they were on the edge of scoring territory again. Maybe that's what the 49ers needed to turn around the momentum after the Pats controlled the ball for almost seven minutes to begin the second half …

3:15: So much for momentum. It's all New England's now. After O'Sullivan scrambles for eight yards down the left sideline on first down, he drops back to pass on the next play. It's disaster for the 49ers. O'Sullivan looks for Arnaz Battle on a slant over the middle, but safety Rodney Harrison jumps the route, deflects the ball into the air, then makes the interception. It's a killer, and the Pats are set up at the San Francisco 21 …

3:21: The San Francisco defense makes it interesting, stuffing the Pats on third-and-goal from the 2. But New England doesn't settle for a field goal attempt. The Pats are going for it. Big play here. New England spreads out the San Francisco defense with Cassel in shotgun formation. But it's a direct snap to Faulk, who follows a surge of white-jerseyed linemen into the end zone for the score. New England continues to push the 49ers around up the middle, and now the Patriots are ahead by two scores with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter after scoring 17 unanswered points …
Patriots 24 49ers 14

3:27: The Patriots are all over the 49ers now. Gore is dropped for a loss on a swing pass on first down, but O'Sullivan is able to scramble for eight yards up the middle on second down. But on third down, Josh Morgan takes a short pass on a crossing pattern and is upended for a loss by Harrison. The Patriots get the ball right back, and there goes Welker for a big gain into San Francisco territory after taking a short pass from Cassel …

3:32:The 49ers force third-and-long, but Cassel finds the opening on that play, hitting Jabar Gaffney for an 11-yard gain that moves the Patriots back into scoring territory. The end of the third quarter comes two short runs later, and the Patriots will face third-and-5 from the San Francisco 23 to begin the fourth quarter …

3:36: Safety Michael Lewis comes through and deflects Cassel's third-down pass, so the Patriots line up for a 40-yard field attempt by Gostkowski. He drills it to increase New England's lead with seven seconds elapsed in the final period. That's 20 unanswered points for the Patriots …
Patriots 27 49ers 14

3:40: Two plays into their next drive, the 49ers finally mix it up a bit, splitting out O'Sullivan wide in the left slot as Gore takes a direct snap in the shotgun and runs up the middle for a first down. Maybe something like this would have been a good idea a bit earlier in the game …

3:42: The 49ers are picking up some steam now. O'Sullivan finds Bryant Johnson for 12 yards and a first down. Then he this Walker for eight more to get the Niners past midfield for the first time in the second half …

3:44: Big break for the 49ers. After Battle drops a pass on second-and-8, O'Sullivan spots him in man coverage on the left side and throws deep on third down. Battle has a step on Meriweather, who is making contact with him, and the yellow flag comes out. It's a 31-yard interference penalty on Meriweather, giving the 49ers a first-and-goal from the 8 and a quick opportunity to get back in this one …

3:47: And, finally, the 49ers take full advantage. On third-and-goal from the 5, O'Sullivan takes the snap in shotgun formation and fires to Bruce crossing in the back of the end zone. It's a perfect throw, and good for the second TD collaboration of the game between the two. After Nedney's PAT, the 49ers are back within six points with 10:22 still remaining to play …
Patriots 27 49ers 21


3:55:The crowd is alive again as the Patriots take the ball on offense. New England moves to a first down, and now the Pats are facing third-and-2 near midfield. Huge play here. But the 49ers can't stop them. Cassel hits Moss on a quick out, and now New England is back in San Francisco territory as the clock goes below eight minutes …

3:59: New England's play-calling is superb as the 49ers come hard after Cassel but he dumps off a short pass to Faulk, who puts the Pats in a third-and-inches situation at the San Francisco 35. New England is challenging the spot of the football, so this one is going up to the replay booth …

4:02: After review, the officials decide to adjust the ball and re-measure. That will give the Patriots a first down at the San Francisco 34 with 6:57 to play …

4:05: The Patriots go nowhere on two plays, setting up a huge third-and-10. Cassel completes a short pass to Welker, who rumbles forward for an apparent first down. But a flag comes out, and it's on Moss for offensive pass interference. That sets the ball back 10 yards, but the Pats get 13 back on a the next play on a pass from Cassel to Gafney that sets up a long field goal attempt …

4:08: With the wind at his back, Gostkowski drills a 49-yard field goal with plenty of room to spare. The ball is right down the middle of the goal posts, and now it's a two-score game again …
Patriots 30 49ers 21

4:13: Time is running out on the 49ers and O'Sullivan is dumped for an eight-yard loss on second-and long after San Francisco approaches midfield. Forced out of the pocket on third-and-long, O'Sullivan throws a desperation pass down the right sideline towards Bruce, but the ball is tipped by Harrison, and Deltha O'Neal comes in to sweep up the interception that gives the ball back to New England inside of three minutes …

4:15: The Pats are running the ball right up the gut and forcing the 49ers to use their timeouts. It's third-and-3 from the San Francisco 46 now, and the 49ers need a stop or that's it …

4:16: The 49ers get the stop and use their final timeout to stop the clock with 2:20 remaining before the Patriots come out to punt. The only thing that will stop the clock now after the Niners get the ball back is the two-minute warning …

4:19: Hansen shanks the ensuing punt off his foot, so the 49ers don't have bad starting field position at their own 27. O'Sullivan begins the drive with an 18-yard strike over the middle to Morgan, which takes the clock down to the two-minute warning …

4:22: In the hurry-up, no-huddle offense now, the 49ers move past midfield on a pass from O'Sullivan to Battle, but Bruce is called for offensive pass interference on third down, pushing the 49ers back to their side of the field. After a third-down incompletion intended for Battle, the 49ers face fourth-and-11. This is their last gasp …

4:24: And the gasp turns into a wheeze. O'Sullivan is flushed from the pocket quickly and pump-fakes a defender to buy some time. But both he and the 49ers have run out of time. As defenders close in, O'Sullivan flings the ball toward the sideline instead of attempting to get the ball downfield so give a receiver an opportunity to make the play. That's the ballgame, not that it wasn't really over some time ago …

4:26: Cassel delivers the obligatory kneel-downs to run out the clock, and that's it. The 49ers can't hang at home with the Patriots, and it doesn't get any easier next week with Philadelphia coming to town. Now saddled with a two-game losing streak, the 2-3 49ers have dropped out of first place in the NFC West after Arizona's 41-17 blasting of previously unbeaten Buffalo.
Final score: Patriots 30 49ers 21


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