What an incredible week it's been for the 49ers and their fans. Entering these last three games of the season, we needed to win out to maintain our current position as the No. 2 seed. We needed to win 2 out of 3 to ensure we win the NFC West. In Week 15 we took the first step in what hopes to be a long series of strides towards the championship. We went into Foxborough and handled the Patriots like few teams have, handing them their first December home loss in over 10 years! It wasn't without its complications and heart-twisting intrigue.
The 49ers appeared to be on their way to a dominating blowout victory over the Patriots, the consensus No. 1 team and winners of seven straight going into Week 15. They staked themselves to a 31-3 lead behind hard running, brutal hits on defense, turnovers limiting Tom Brady's opportunities, and Colin Kaepernick. Then Brady and the Patriots began to do what they do, which is score points in a hurry. Following our 4th touchdown of the game, Brady began a stretch of play, that had New England won the game, would go down as a signature moment in the man's signature career. The Patriots scored 28 points on four consecutive drives, while the 49ers secured one first down and three punts on their three drives in the interim. Game tied 31-31. The four Patriots' drives consisted of 35 plays for 317 yards and took a combined 12:20 of game time.
At this point, my brother-in-law Pete noted, "You sure are quiet." Thanks Pete, thanks.
The defense appeared fatigued, the offense was stagnant and the pendulum that is momentum had swung way past the middle ground and had become thoroughly wedged in Bill Belichick's hoodie. And then Mariah Carey's "Hero" came on in my internal iTunes. I'm generally loathe to see the word 'hero' used in sports, what with war and people jumping into freezing rivers to save children, unless of course they play for my football team, then my moral compass spins around like I was standing outside of Santa's at the North Pole.
What happened next was the type of 2-play sequence that changes a season. With nearly all avenues exhausted, and a desperate need for a play to be made, LaMichael James took the ensuing kickoff 62 yards up the left sideline to the Patriots' 38-yard line. James had hardly seen the field on the season, but, as we now know (funny we didn't know it during the previous 10 years), you can never have too many playmakers. Colin Kaepernick found Michael Crabtree on the next play on a quick hitch route. Crabtree shook the defender and sprinted the 38 yards to the end zone and the rest is history. That's my take on the game. Let's see what the rest of the Niners Nation staff have to say about it.
Week 15: 49ers 41, Patriots 34
Batting leadoff today is Foo...what?....In a surprise, last-minute substitution James Brady steps to the plate. Fooch was busy at Foxboro and, thus, unable to bring us his usual post game work. James gives us a recap and some of his unedited thoughts from the game. | 49ers 41, Patriots 34: San Francisco gets huge road win in Week 15 (Brady)
Had enough of James? Tough! We've got some more thoughts, these ones fully-formed. The 49ers getting to the Patriots 5-, 21-, and 25-yard lines early in the game and getting zero points was of major concern. We should have gotten 13 out of that, thus nullifying Brady's chances for a comeback. He also notes that if any other player had slammed the ball and screamed at the officials as Brady did when the 49ers called timeout, they would have gotten a 15-yarder. | Tight ends so-so, snaps an issue and Tom Brady throws a tantrum (Brady)
Sometimes I like to include the snap count story if it stands out to me. What stood out was the amount of snaps played by the defense. This is the type of workload that necessitates that we earn a first-round bye. Oh, and nice of you to show up for work, Fooch. | 49ers snap count vs Patriots: Defense does some work (Fooch)
And who's that coming out of the tunnel? A limping Anthony Ly, favoring his right leg, after being taken off on a stretcher before halftime. Read and learn that the injury was self-inflicted and oh...Happy Birthday. You got your wish. 49ers beat the Patriots. All I got was a book and a dinner. | The booth review - 49ers vs Patriots: "Kaep 'n Crab deny the Pats" (Ly)
Colin Kaepernick was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 15. His four touchdowns were the most thrown by a 49ers' QB since Jeff Garcia. Yes, that means Alex Smith never accomplished that feat. I think Kaepernick's got a lot more of that in him. | Colin Kaepernick named NFC Offensive Player of the Week (Fooch)
Also of note from last Sunday's victory was that all four of Colin Kaepernick's TD passes went for over 24 yards. Only one of those, the game-clincher to Crabtree was on a short throw. The others did not involve YAC. It's the element from the offense that was missing under Alex Smith. | The 49ers go deep (liberty_JAC)
Week 16: 49ers at Seahawks
Here's a fun game. If you could take a player off of the Seahawks roster, who would it be? Before reading, I instantly thought Richard Sherman and his physical (illegal?) brand of cornerbacking. It looks like he'll be playing this weekend, as the decision on his appeal for testing positive for Adderall won't be finalized until later. | 49ers vs Seahawks: Who would you swap in? (Fooch)
Who's my favorite receiver? Anyone? Michael Crabtree, that's who. I've already publicly apologized for my previous doubt of #15, but I've moved from regret to adoration. His play of late has been a revelation. With Vernon Davis starring in "Honey I Shrunk my Role", it's been great to see Crabs take charge as the go-to guy. His downfield blocking and play on third down have been stellar, but he's averaging 100.3 yards per game over the last three and his game-clinching TD in Foxboro will go down in lore if we can win the big one. | Michael Crabtree breaking through in 2012 with career-year (DeSimone)
In case you live under a rock, or under a bridge, if you're a troll (the literal meaning, not the internet meaning), a little girl drew some tattoos on her arm and rapped about the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. It was cute, and people went bonkers, bananas, and buck-wild. Here's the vid. | Little girl raps about Colin Kaepernick, 49ers (Fooch)
Dylan DeSimone has the scoop on what 49ers we could expect to see in different duds in 2013. David Akers and his suddenly shaky boot are at the top and of course there's the Alex Smith conundrum. Who else might be gone? Have a peak and discuss below. | Familiar faces that may be gone in 2013 (DeSimone)
And the best thing I've read while writing this piece is this. Thanks to Dylan for fishing this out of the turbulent seas that comprise the internet. Colin Kaepernick is clutch as can be. Think about it. Made the play in each of the last two weeks to finish the game. Move over Brian Wilson, San Francisco has a new closer! | Colin Kaepernick is at his best when the game is on the line (Tre9er)
W-W-L-W-W-L-W-W-T-W-W-L-W-W-__ OK, what's the next letter in that sequence. If you said W, you hate common sense. (I say W, so don't feel bad). What's with that pattern? It's killing me and is the only thing that let's doubt creep in about our chances to win a Lombardi trophy. Not the simple W-W-L pattern, but the fact that those L's are often against bad / average teams, showing that we can beat ourselves every third game. | The 49ers at their "best" and the recurring W-W-L theme (Fooch)
Here's another contract / roster speculation piece for you guys. What does the future hold for Frank Gore? How much longer can his body take the beating that is the life of an NFL running back? How much will the religiously pragmatic 49ers front office want to give a soon to be 30-year old running back with a ton of carries under his belt. | Frank Gore contract: What the future holds for the 49ers all-time leading rusher (Hurley)
And, finally, we had a bit of fun here at NN. Fooch had us put together some of our favorite sports memories for the end of the Mayan world. I'm in Australia, it's Saturday and the world did not end. Giant, jumping rats rule the countryside and English had descended into a series of "G'Days" and "Mates"....other than that, all is normal. | Mayans 2012 prediction: Best sports memories as the world comes to an end (NN Staff)
Oohhh....FanPosts. I wish there was a FanPost segment theme song. I don't think the NN budget will be able to afford a songwriter. Write to Fooch incessantly asking for it. He'll love you for it. And I could get the axe! However you slice it, we've got three good FanPosts to finish things off with.
Here is the most rec'd FanPost of the week. It's a call to peace among fellow West Coast fan bases. The 'Sea Chickens' label has got to go. Treat them with respect and let's present a united West Coast front! | A thought on our fellow fans of the Pacific North-West (Delmuir)
Second up is a piece about the changing of the guard in 12th century France? WTF? No, seriously, it's a good analogy about Kaepernick usurping the throne of King Alex. It also illustrates Coach Harbaugh's philosophy in action. And anything with a history reference is OK, by me. | The king is dead, long live the king! OK...Alex isn't "dead", but... (16to80fan)
And finally, we have a piece that stirred up plenty of debate. It's a statistical analysis of WRs taken in a similar draft range as our first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and how they fared. He's yet to catch a ball, which has much of the fan base questioning the logic of picking him over an immediate contributor for a team that has title aspirations. | A.J. Jenkins - What are the 49ers missing? (reedkrase)
Being a Sheep
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