49ers hold off improbable Pats comeback

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
2:20
PM ET

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaColin Kaepernick threw a career-high four touchdowns in a win over the Patriots.
The San Francisco 49ers led by as many as 28 points in the second half before the New England Patriots tied the game with 28 consecutive points of their own. San Francisco hung on to win, 41-34, capping a wild night in terms of win probability for both teams (see chart below).

It was the final of six games yesterday matching teams with winning records -- the latest calendar day in NFL history with six games between teams with winning records.

Colin Kaepernick threw four touchdown passes -- he had three in his career entering the game -- and posted a Total QBR of 87.1, the second-best mark of his career in a game with more than five action plays. His QBR this season is 79.5, trailing only Peyton Manning (81.5).

San Francisco’s wide receivers certainly benefitted.

Michael Crabtree scored twice, including the go-ahead touchdown with 6:25 remaining. It was his third career multi-TD game and all three have come in his past 15 games. It was also his third 100-yard game of the season (sixth of his career) -- he’s the first Niners player with 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a game since 2005 (Brandon Lloyd).

Randy Moss scored the game’s first touchdown, the 157th of his career, passing Terrell Owens for sole possession of fourth on the all-time TD list. He’s just five behind LaDainian Tomlinson for third place all-time. He passed Isaac Bruce for third on the all-time receiving yards list (15,220) and trails only Owens (15,934) and Jerry Rice (22,895).

What It Means for 49ers
San Francisco clinches a playoff spot for the second straight season, the first time it’s made consecutive playoff appearances since Steve Mariucci’s last two seasons as head coach (2001 and 2002). The Niners can clinch the NFC West with a win Sunday and can clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Green Bay Packers loss.

It’s the first time since 2003 the 49ers have scored 40 points at least twice in the same season. And it’s their first win over the Patriots since 1995 (had lost three straight meetings) and their first road win over New England since 1992. The 49ers have won five straight games against AFC teams.

What It Means for Patriots
New England falls to the third seed in the AFC, behind the Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos. That’s bad news for the Patriots, who were the No. 1 or No. 2 seed when they made each of their five Super Bowl appearances under Bill Belichick.

The loss ends their 13-game December winning streak -- which was tied for the second-longest such streak in NFL history -- and their 20-game home winning streak in December. It was their first loss in the second half of the season since Week 17 in 2009.

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