Moss Back In The Mix
"I think for the most part, I think that's just what we've been waiting on," Moss said. "To really open the offense up a little bit more and get the ball downfield to make other plays work, I just think that it's just a good thing that it happened and we connected."
Moss is still behind his pace from a year ago, but he is confident things will start to pick up once he and Cassel develop trust in one another. Working during the bye week went a long way toward building that continuity.
"We emphasized on getting open, beating man coverage and being spaced in our offensive passing game," Moss said. "Being able to connect on that deep ball, I think it was good from an offensive standpoint because that's something that we've been missing in our repertoire the past couple weeks."
Heads Up Play
Moss also made a big play on the other side of the ball that might've changed the complexion of the game.
He and Cassel tried to connect on another big play in the second quarter, but Cassel underthrew the ball and Nate Clements came up with the interception at the 6-yard line.
Moss immediately tackled Clements, which turned out to be big since the 49ers eventually punted on their ensuing drive and gave the Patriots great field position at their own 43. Had Moss not made the tackle, Clements would've had room to run and might've returned the ball close to midfield.
"You always love to see that," Belichick said.
Focus On Finishing
The Patriots placed a heavy emphasis on improving their red-zone offense and third-down defense during the bye week and came through with flying colors on Sunday.
They limited San Francisco to just one third-down conversion on nine attempts (11 percent) while scoring touchdowns on two of their three red-zone possessions -- both on 2-yard runs by Kevin Faulk.
"It was good to be able to get the ball into the end zone. It was good to be able to have, statistically, a better down on third down," Belichick said. "Those two things helped us. Hopefully, the extra work and time that we spent on it, both this week and a little bit last week will help us going forward because it's hard to win games if you're not efficient in those two areas."
Getting Into A Groove
Cassel is starting to feel confident after starting three games in Tom Brady's absence, and it showed in his performance Sunday. Even with an interception on his touchdown attempt to Moss, Cassel continued to execute the passing game and never backed down after making a rare mistake.
"I just feel that week in and week out we continue to mature and play better," Cassel said. "It's because of the defenses and how you kind of know where you want to go, and you build a little bit of chemistry with the players and receivers and running backs.
"Hopefully, it will continue to be a building block for me. I'm not saying that we're not going to stumble along the way somewhere but, at the same time as a young guy that's only in his third start, you've got to keep progressing."
--The Patriots will continue their road trip by staying in Santa Clara, Calif., for the rest of the week and traveling to San Diego on Saturday to put the finishing touches on their preparation for Sunday's game against the Chargers.
The Arizona Cardinals made similar arrangements last month by staying on the East Coast for back-to-back games against the Redskins and Jets, but ultimately lost twice. The Patriots are guaranteed at least a split and may have a good chance at the sweep now that San Diego is 2-3 following Sunday's loss at Miami.
--RB LaMont Jordan suffered an apparent right ankle injury early in Sunday's game and sat out the rest of the afternoon. Coach Bill Belichick said Jordan is "banged up" and will be evaluated later in the week.
--S Brandon Meriweather and CB Ellis Hobbs briefly left Sunday's game with undisclosed injuries but eventually returned and finished the rest of the afternoon on the field. Neither setback appears to be serious, and both players should be at practice this week.
--LB Jerod Mayo was mysteriously absent from the defense during the final few series of Sunday's game. Mayo had played practically every defensive snap prior to this weekend, but he may be suffering from an injury that is limiting his playing time. He did, however, continue to participate on the kick return coverage team, so the situation does not appear to be serious.
--LB Gary Guyton benefited from Mayo's absence toward the end of the game and got reps with the first team defense next to Tedy Bruschi on the inside. Guyton made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent and has been a steady contributor thus far.
--CB Terrence Wheatley took advantage of Lewis Sanders' absence from the lineup and got his first real action on defense, taking part in the Patriots' nickel and dime packages. Sunday's role could lead to more playing time in the future as Wheatley continues to learn the defense.
--LB Eric Alexander and WR Kelley Washington also missed the game, yet newly acquired WR Maurice Price was surprisingly inactive. Price figured to be an insurance policy for Washington, who is nursing an ankle injury, but the Patriots went with a light lineup against the 49ers and instead established their running game.
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