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Fan falls from stands at Pats-49ers game, taken to hospital

12.17.12 at 1:05 pm ET
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A fan fell out of the Gillette Stadium stands during Sunday night’s Patriots-49ers game and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital, the team announced. The fan fell into the tunnel where the visiting team leaves the field.

A team spokesman said the fan was alert and awake when he left the stadium.

Resetting AFC playoff picture

12.17.12 at 7:48 am ET
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After Sunday’s action, here’s a quick look at where the AFC playoff stands:

1. Houston (12-2): Unless something wacky happens, the Texans wrapped up one of the top two spots with their win over the Colts on Sunday at home. Houston is in control of its’ own destiny — it can clinch a top-two seed with a win next week against visiting Minnesota, and if the Texans follow that up with a win over the Colts in the regular-season finale, they’ll clinch home field. Houston did an excellent job bouncing back after last Monday’s brutal loss to the Patriots, and sent a message to the rest of the AFC that it’ll be a tough out in the postseason.

Remaining schedule: vs. Vikings (8-6), at Colts (9-5).

2. Denver (11-3): The Broncos first quality win of the season came at a great time, as they crushed the reeling Ravens in Baltimore and moved a game ahead of the Patriots and into the No. 2 slot in the AFC chase. It’s next to impossible that Denver loses one of their two remaining games (the Broncos face Kansas City and Cleveland, and have the easiest strength of schedule the rest of the way, playing teams that are a combined 7-21 over the last two weeks), so it’s safe to say they have the No. 2 seed well in hand heading into the last two weeks of the season.

Remaining schedule: vs. Browns (5-9), vs. Chiefs (2-12).

3. Patriots (10-4): As Kevin Garnett once told us, “Anything is possible,” but at this point, it seems highly unlikely that the Patriots are going to get off the No. 3 seed. Even with games against Jacksonville and Miami, New England can’t move up unless the Texans or Broncos stumble, and at this point, that really doesn’t seem like a possibility. If things stay as they are, that would mean the Patriots would host a wild card game that first playoff weekend against the Bengals.

Remaining schedule: at Jaguars (2-12), vs. Dolphins (6-8).

4. Ravens (9-5): Ever since Ray Rice converted on 4th and 29 against the Chargers on Thanksgiving weekend, it’s been all downhill for Baltimore. The Ravens have taken a major step backwards over the last three weeks with three consecutive losses, culminating with a 34-17 home loss to the Broncos. Baltimore is clearly a shell of itself, and given where they are right now, it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to finish with a 9-7 mark, as they have games against the Giants and Bengals to finish out the season. However, the Ravens hold on to the fourth spot, the Colts will travel to Baltimore for a wild-card date with the Ravens.

Remaining schedule: vs. Giants (8-6), at Bengals (8-6).

5. Indy (9-5): The Colts were beaten pretty handily by the Texans on Sunday in Houston, going down by a 29-17 count. While it’s a safe bet that they’ll bounce back this weekend against the woeful Chiefs and hit double-digits in wins, their regular-season finale could be an interesting one against the Texans. Playoff positioning could still be on the line, and it would be interesting to see how Houston plays things if it’s locked into the top spot.

Remaining schedule: at Chiefs (2-12), vs. Texans (12-2).

6. Cincinnati (8-6): With all due respect to Indy, this might be the most surprising team in the mix, at least to this point. The Bengals have won five of their last six, and that hot streak — combined with the recent struggles of the Ravens and Steelers — have combined to put them in very good position entering the final two weeks of the season. If they do end up missing out, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves, as they have a pair of division games to close out their slate, with a contest at Pittsburgh and then home to face Baltimore.

Remaining schedule: at Steelers (7-7), vs. Ravens (9-5).

On the outside looking in: Pittsburgh (7-7), New York Jets (6-7), Miami (6-8).

Michael Crabtree: Hats off to Niners D for ‘stopping my dude Tom Brady’

12.17.12 at 3:25 am ET
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FOXBORO — For two-and-a-half quarters, 49ers star wide receiver Michael Crabtree watched as his San Francisco defense put the wraps on Tom Brady.

He knew it probably wouldn’t last forever.

And it didn’t. But in the end, the Niners did just enough to disrupt Brady and stopped him on two drives when it mattered late in the fourth quarter in a 41-34 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

“Tonight was a good night for us, for our offense, making it happen at the end. I just [take] my hat off to the defense for stopping my dude, Tom Brady. That’s one of my favorites and I’m going to keep saying it.”

Crabtree certainly did his part, catching a pair of TD passes from Colin Kaepernick, including the go-ahead on with 6:25 left after Brady and the Patriots climbed out of a 31-3 hole.

“Just trying to make a play,” Crabtree said. “I told Kap to just put the ball up and he did and I took off running. Not at all. Just taking charge. I have to take advantage they give to me. It was a five-yard hitch. I have to make it happen. I just took it.

“Everything is football. Anything can happen. Cap trusted me and we made it happen.”

Crabtree finished with seven catches and 107 yards on the night.

“It was really about us, executing plays,” Crabtree said. “Those guys [Patriots D] did good. They stopped us on a couple of plays but it’s a fight. We won the fight.

“We proved that we can win against a good offense. We can win a shootout. Whatever it takes, that’s our motto. We came up with the ‘W’.”

Read More: Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, New England Patriots, nfl

Tom Brady: ‘I had a feeling we’d be able to come back’

12.17.12 at 2:51 am ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady had one of the most bizarre games of his career Sunday night during a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Gillette Stadium.

Brady was intercepted twice while the running backs lost two fumbles. Brady finished 36-of-65 for 443 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 68.9.

It was a brutal first half for Brady and the offense, as he completed 10-of-19 passes for 76 yards and an interception. His quarterback rating at the half was 40.7.

But even down 31-3 with over 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Brady had a real sense the game wasn’t over.

“I didn’€™t think so,” Brady said when asked if he felt a sense of hopelessness. “I had a feeling we’€™d be able to come back. We hung in there, we battled back from a 28-point deficit, but we just made too many mistakes when we needed to make the plays. It’€™s a tough loss, but we’€™ve got to try to get some things corrected.”

Brady threw 46 passes in the second half and finished just shy of matching his boyhood idol Joe Montana for the greatest comeback in regular season history. The 49ers erased a 35-7 deficit on Dec. 7, 1980 and won 38-35. Of course, the all-time comeback was when Buffalo wiped out a 35-3 hole and beat the Oilers, 41-38, in overtime in the 1993 playoffs.

Of course, many fans will point to and second-guess the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from New England’s own 12 with 2:24 left in the game, and still two timeouts and the two-minute warning at their disposal.

Did he think there might be any debate?

“No. I didn’t think about it,” Brady said. “We made a few of them. That was just bad execution.”

The Patriots converted their first three fourth-downs of the games before the incompletion on fourth-and-1. They finished 5-of-6 on fourth down but just 2-for-15 on third down, including 0-for-7 in the first half.

Here is the rest of Brady’s Q and A after the game: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, San Francisco 49ers, Tom Brady

Randy Moss returns to New England and has quick impact with touchdown grab

12.17.12 at 2:38 am ET
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FOXBORO — It didn’€™t take very long for former Patriots receiver Randy Moss to make an impact on Sunday night. Moss, who started in place of the injured Mario Manningham and played opposite Michael Crabtree, drew the coverage of rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Moss caught a 12-yard strike from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on San Francisco’€™s third offensive play from scrimmage, and put the first score on the board three plays later. Moss was able to get behind Dennard down the left sideline, while Kaepernick lofted an easy 24-yard pass over the top of the Patriots defense.

It was Moss’€™ third touchdown catch of the year, and his first since the 49ers’€™ Week 8 matchup with the Cardinals on Oct. 29.

Moss’ ability to take the top off an opposing defense has stood out throughout his career, and on Sunday night, against his former team with whom he set records aplenty, Moss contributed in signature form. In doing so, he exposed an issue that has afflicted New England at different points throughout 2012.

Coming off of a game where the Patriots dominated so thoroughly on Monday night, the problems that had plagued this defensive secondary seemed to fall by the wayside until Moss opened up the scoring on the long play.

Moss declined to comment after the game on Sunday night; instead, he left his locker soon after the game had ended. He did tweet out at roughly 1:30 a.m., ‘€œThe game is over!!i don’t wanna talk bout Tht.’€

He was targeted two more times on the night, but did not pull in another pass after the first offensive possession for the 49ers.

Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said that as a whole his team wasn’€™t very surprised by the play of Kaepernick and his ability to make the throws that he did.

‘€œWe knew [Kaepernick] could throw the ball from watching film,’€ Mayo said. ‘€œWe didn’€™t know is they were going to throw it or not because it was raining a bit. But they came out and threw the ball, scored on us early. Like you said earlier, we fought back, but it wasn’€™t enough.’€

When Dennard went down late in the second quarter with a knee injury, the Patriots applied a different scheme to cover Moss, with a combination of Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib and safeties making sure the veteran receiver was accounted for.

Despite not having another catch after the first quarter, Moss was the second-leading San Francisco receiver, with 36 yards total on the night.

Read More: Colin Kaepernick, New England Patriots, Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers

Patriots playoff road now looks like it will have to be … on the road

12.17.12 at 2:30 am ET
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The Patriots had been so dominant at times through the course of the seven-game winning streak that they carried into Sunday night against the 49ers that it proved difficult to remain mindful of a critical fact: The team had failed to gain separation from its top AFC rivals.

But that fact was driven home by a new reality that prevailed after New England’s 41-34 home loss to San Francisco. With the defeat, the Patriots fell to 10-4, one game behind Denver (which has now won nine straight) for the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC.

After the Patriots destroyed the Texans (still the top overall seed in the AFC) by a 42-14 count last Monday, giving New England an average margin of 25 points in its most recent four wins, it seemed more natural to ask whether the Pats could catch the Texans for home field throughout the AFC playoffs.

But with Sunday’s loss, New England now would need to win out its remaining two games (at Jacksonville and home against Miami) with the Texans losing out (home against the Vikings and on the road at the Colts) and the Broncos losing one of their two remaining home games (against the downtrodden Browns and Chiefs) to claim the top side, an exceedingly unlikely combination of events.

The Pats could still take the No. 2 seed if they win out and the Broncos lose one game, or if they win one game and Denver loses out. But given that Denver is 5-1 at home and hosting two teams that are a combined 2-11 on the road, there is an excellent chance that the Pats (assuming they win out) will be staring at a No. 3 seed in the playoffs, with no bye and, if they win a home game in the wild card round, in need of wins in Denver and/or Houston in order to advance to the Super Bowl.

LaMichael James on late kick return: ‘We needed a boost’

12.17.12 at 1:52 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots had completed the near-unthinkable; coming back from a 28-point deficit to tie the 49ers, 31-31, with less than seven minutes left to play on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. The crowd, which had thinned just a bit after San Francisco jumped out to such an astonishing lead, began to electrify the stadium.

After Danny Woodhead scored his second rushing touchdown of the night to tie the score, rookie running back LaMichael James thought to himself, ‘€œDon’€™t flinch.’€

James was back to return the Stephen Gostkowski kickoff, and recognized that his team needed a spark. He took the ball down the left sideline, got a few blocks, and sprung a 62-yard return that set the 49ers on the Patriots’€™ 38-yard line.

One play was all it took for Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick to capitalize, as he hit Michael Crabtree for a 38-yard score that put his team up for good.

After the game, James said that he knew in his mind what his team needed after letting a four-touchdown lead disappear.

‘€œWe needed a boost. That’€™s exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking I was going to take it to the house,’€ James said. ‘€œI just kept telling myself that I was going to get down there. I believed in it, and it happened.’€

On the very next drive for the Patriots, Tom Brady was sacked twice and Zoltan Mesko was forced to send the ball back to San Francisco. It was the first drive that the Patriots didn’€™t score on since midway through the third quarter.

James said that they couldn’€™t let the fact that they had blown a huge lead get to them, because they knew who they were up against, and whose territory they were in.

‘€œThey’€™re a great team. You know, Tom Brady is a great quarterback, and they have great players. You have to keep fighting; nobody said it was going to be easy,’€ he said.

‘€œGreat return by LaMichael,’€ 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said on Sunday night. ‘€œ’€¦ Not where he was supposed to go with the ball, ‘€¦ but he saw what we saw, kicked it out to LaMichael and then LaMichael made a huge play.’€

Read More: Colin Kaepernick, Jim Harbaugh, LaMichael James, Tom Brady
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