Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/16/12
6:25 p.m.: The rain is still falling hard and fast, but the tarp is coming off the field at Gillette Stadium and the Patriots are getting set for another primetime showdown. Less than a week after laying the smack down on the AFC-leading Texans, the Patriots now welcome another perennial Super Bowl contender to town. The 49ers bring in a young stud quarterback in Colin Kaepernick and the best defense in football, which should present a tough challenge even in the confines of comfort here at Gillette. Anyhow, before we get rolling, take a quick look at the field as the players make their way out to do some pregame warmups. 2:30 p.m.: Robert Kraft’s family is connected to what happened in Connecticut on Friday. He said he’s planning on donating $25,000 to the Newtown community and also talked about how the Patriots’ players have responded over the last couple of days. 11:15 a.m.: The Patriots, Jets and Giants will all be honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Sunday. Perhaps the saddest story comes out of the Giants’ organization, where Victor Cruz  took the memories one step further by writing the name of one of the victims, 6-year-old Jack Pinto, on his gloves and cleats. Cruz is giving Pinto the special treatment after finding out that the 6-year-old was an especially big fan of Cruz. The Giants’ wide receiver even placed a call Pinto’s parents, who are reportedly considering burying their son in a Cruz jersey. There will be plenty of emotion before the Patriots, Jets and Giants all play their games this week, with the memories taking to the field, too, as the teams each honor the victims in their own ways. Check out a closeup of what the Patriots will be wearing tonight: Photo via Twitter/@NewEnglandPatriots 9:15 a.m.: It’s been a heartbreaking weekend in New England, with the shooting in Newtown, Conn., close to home for many in local states. The Patriots have plans to honor the Newtown community and remember the victims of the shooting during tonight’s game. As well as the moment of silence that each NFL team is going to hold before its Sunday game, the Patriots will send up 26 flares and wear a helmet decal tonight. 8 a.m. ET: Less than a week after the Patriots laid the proverbial smackdown on the Houston Texans on national television, the San Francisco 49ers come to Gillette Stadium, with their focus on making their own point in front of a national audience. Tom Brady, who won his record 23rd AFC Player of the Week award this week, will try to build on last week’s four-touchdown performance, further solidifying his place in the MVP race. But the 49ers come to Foxboro with maybe the best pass rush Brady will see all season and arguably the best defense in the NFL. Brady knew the 49ers’ defense would provide a challenge, and he even admitted this week that he’s been preparing for San Francisco since Thanksgiving. That extra prep time alone may not be enough for Brady to overcome the 49ers, though. Stevan Ridley — who ranks seventh among running backs with 1,082 rushing yards and leads the league in first downs with 70 — and the Patriots’ stable of running backs will need to help energize the offense Sunday. While Brady attempts to counter the 49ers’ vaunted defense, the Patriots will also have their hands full with a very different style of quarterback. The versatility and athleticism of Colin Kaepernick should offer Vince Wilfork and the defensive line fits all night, while Kaepernick’s combination of arm strength and precision should test Aqib Talib, Devin McCourty and an improving, yet still suspect, secondary. There’s plenty to look forward to in this potential Super Bowl preview, so keep it locked here. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m., but we’ve got you covered from all angles ahead of time with all the news, notes and analysis on your New England Patriots. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
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