Best and worst: Patriots 30, 49ers 17
BEST CHANGE OF PACE
Patrick Chung blitzed off the edge on the second and third plays of the game defensively coming up with a series-ending sack. It was the first of a fleet of pressure sent by the Patriots early in the game that resulted in four first-half sacks.
MOST ENCOURAGING EARLY RETURNS
The Patriots seemed to ratchet up pressure on the first couple of 49ers series which was a departure from their style in recent games.
MOST UNUSUAL TRANSGRESSION
Niners center Daniel Kilgore somehow snapped rolled a snap back in the first quarter resulting in the rarely called snap infraction.
BEST BAY AREA BONUS
Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for a touchdown pass in the back right of the end zone to cap the Patriots first drive as both players were back in their native Northern California to play for the first time.
BACK AT IT AGAIN
Stephen Gostkowski pushed his first PAT attempt wide right making his third miss of the season from 33 yards away. He didn’t miss any PATs during the regular season last year, the first where it was pushed back to the 33.
After a very encouraging first drive by the Patriots defense, the Niners embarked on a 12-play, 60-yard field goal drive that included conversions of third-and-8 and third-and-9 before Dont'a Hightower flashed through with a blitz to snuff the drive.
BEST BLOCKED RUMBLE
LeGarrette Blount got loose for a 44-yard run with key blocks at the point-of-attack by Joe Thuney, David Andrews and James Develin and then a long-lasting downfield block by wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
VAN NOISIEST DEBUT
Kyle Van Noy, who – along with Shea McClellin and Elandon Roberts – has seen rising playing time came up with a sack on the Niners second drive.
Dont'a Hightower, who was on the sidelines for the Patriots second drive, was back down at the start of the third drive for the Niners. San Fran took advantage of the Patriots underneath with scrambles and a completion to tight end Brent Celek on Elandon Roberts before throwing a touchdown to Celek with Devin McCourty in coverage to trim the lead to 13-10.
WOBBLY WHEELS AWARD
After a Nate Solder hold that wiped out (but also enabled) long LeGarrette Blount touchdown run, the Patriots were mediocre on both sides of the ball for the remainder of the half.
Taking over with 1:48 left in the half at their own 27 with one timeout, the Patriots were conservative in their approach likely because of both the weather conditions and the fact San Francisco had proven offensively it would be able to get yards in chunks.
HE’S STILL GOT IT AWARD
Dion Lewis had a nice little in-and-out move on a third-and-9 carry late in the first half to extend a drive that allowed the Patriots to avoid giving the ball back to the 49ers offense. Which was a sobering reality
On a second-and-10 play late in the third, Tom Brady was afforded loads of time and had an open Julian Edelman crossing the field but overthrew him missing a chance for a big play.
On third-and-10 Brady found rookie Malcolm Mitchell deep down the middle for the first down and on the next two plays Brady used his mobility to create a first-down throw to James White then found Martellus Bennett for 14 to put the Patriots on the move.
Tom Brady completed a scurrying, falling down, 5-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola to open the fourth quarter and put the Patriots up 20-10.
Tom Brady, rushing forward in the pocket on a third-and-8 from the Patriots 44 with 10:15 remaining, lasered a pass past the ear of 49ers corner Keith Reaser founding Malcolm Mitchell for a 56-yard touchdown that made it 27-10 and put Mitchell at 98 yards receiving on his first four catches.