FOXBORO -- New England was down 31-3 to the Niners with 10:21 left to play in the third quarter.
With 6:43 left in regulation, the score was tied at 31.
"I could feel that we'd be able to come back," Tom Brady said in his post game press conference. "We hung in there; we battled back from a 28-point deficit.
"We just made too many mistakes when we needed to make plays."
The Patriots lost the Sunday night game, 41-34, despite all second half heroics. But it probably makes more sense to say the game was lost in the first half.
Brady seemed to think so.
Rather than pat the back of the NFL's best defense (San Francisco surrenders just 14.2 points per game), New England's quarterback gave his own team a lashing.
The question: What were the Niners doing that kept you guys to three first half points? The way Brady answered says it all.
"We were turning the ball over," he said. "It's hard if you're not making big plays and you can't put together enough good plays to put together a scoring drive. And certainly to turn the ball over and give them a chance to score, which is pretty much what we did the entire first half. We just didn't even give ourselves a chance.
"I mean, they're a very good team, and a very good defense, and they play hard. We just spotted them 28 points. We fought hard, but you can't play poorly against a good team and expect to win."
New England turned the ball over four times on two interceptions and two fumbles. This is a team that was crushing all NFL competition with a plus-24 turnover differential.
But that's not the only uncharacteristic statistic.
Coming into Week 15, the Patriots had just 16 three-and-out drives on the season. They had four Sunday night.
Before playing San Francisco, the Patriots led the NFL in third-down conversion percentage at 52.5. They went two-for-15 against the Niners.
There was a more than 10 minute stretch, as San Francisco entered the break with a six-minute scoring drive and received to start the second half, where the Patriots didn't even touch the ball.
You can see why the comeback was impressive.
New England dug itself out of the grave by scoring four straight touchdowns. This, after displaying complete offensive impotence.
It's one thing to be beaten schematically -- there are practical adjustments that can be made and practically applied against the defense.
What do you do when you're beating yourself? How do you stop turning the ball over when you're already trying your damnedest to be efficient?
"It was just execution," Brady said. "It wasn't like there was a magic formula to what we were doing; we just stopped killing ourselves. We just can't turn the ball over and we can't miss plays that we have opportunities at. So, we hit a few of those and that's why we moved the ball."
Receiver Brandon Lloyd had three catches for 40 yards at the half and finished with 10 for 190 -- a career high for yardage. He made New England's halftime adjustments sound brutally simple.
"We need to hang onto the ball," he said. "We need to catch the ball."
The upcoming week's work will probably go more in-depth.
It doesn't matter the Patriots should coast through the regular season, from facing 2-12 Jacksonville to the 6-8 Dolphins; the way New England bared its neck to a ravenous Niners team is unsettling. Especially so close to the playoffs.
The Patriots will need to display resilience in the coming weeks. And something more than just a four-touchdown push that makes a loss look a little better in the box score.
"Mental toughness . . . I think that's what you show," Brady said of New England's next move. "It's not every game is going to be perfect; not every carry is going to be a 50-yard touchdown; not every pass is going to be a 50-yard touchdown; it's a matter of understanding what you need to do to help the team win and being selfless and doing your job."