Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/18/14
The Patriots suffered an almost unfathomable loss on Sunday night. Not that they weren’t expecting a tough test against the 49ers, or even to lose the game, but it was more so the manner in which they lost. The Patriots gave up 41 points on defense, their most since Week 4, 2009, and just looked completely overmatched against Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the Niners’ offensive balance. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots near record-setting offense struggled to score for much of the night, rocking just three points into the locker room at halftime and not getting their first touchdown until midway through the third quarter. At that point, New England trailed by four scores (28 points), which only complicated things. The Patriots need to find see some improvement in a few areas over the final few weeks of the season in order to feel comfortable heading into the playoffs. Brady threw for over 440 yards and accounted for two of the Patriots’ touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, but he also turned the ball over twice. One interception wasn’t necessarily his fault, as Aaron Hernandez let a bobbled ball end up in the 49ers’ hands, but Brady needs to better protect the football and get the offense off to a faster start than we saw against San Francisco. Stevan Ridley let go of a costly fumble — as well as another one that was overturned on review — and gained just 23 yards on nine carries. His hard-nosed running is key for the Patriots’ offensive balance, and if he can’t be trusted with the ball then there will be no such thing as balance. Over on defense, Aqib Talib struggled to cover Randy Moss early in the game, which helped the 49ers jump out to such a commanding lead. His play on the outside has been iffy, even given the pick-six in his Patriots debut, and he really needs to lock down on other teams’ No. 1 options in order to allow the rest of the defense to continue with that aggressive style. The special teams’ struggles also played a big part in Sunday’s loss. Matthew Slater, as captain of that unit, took full responsibility for the letdown and said his group was taking it as a learning opportunity. Three holding penalties on punt returns cost the Patriots 60 yards in field position, and that 62-yard kick return by LaMichael James sucked the wind right out of the Patriots’ sails. Slater needs to get his special teamers back up to par in time for the playoffs, otherwise the Patriots could be in big trouble. So, with an underwhelming performance by nearly the entire team, at least throughout most of the game, which player needs to step up most over the final two weeks of the season? Take Our Poll
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Mayweather beats Pacquiao by unanimous decision

Manny Pacquiao after loss: 'I thought I won the fight'

Did Evan Mathis respond to Chip Kelly's slight with barb?

WATCH: American Pharoah wins Kentucky Derby

Report: Rams trade RB Zac Stacy to Jets

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Falcons draft pick's house burned down during draft

Packers trade up to draft Brett Hundley

Greg Hardy apologizes for joke about 9/11

Mayweather bans Rachel Nichols, Michelle Beadle from covering fight

Five takeaways from Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft

Elite recruit Jaylen Brown commits to California

Clippers beat Spurs on Chris Paul shot in Game 7

Jimmy Kimmel's Manny Pacquiao T-shirt goes viral

Big fight packs airport, leaves no room for planes

Pete Carroll discusses Russell Wilson's contract status

Jim Harbaugh not happy Lou Holtz is out at ESPN

Cubs fans want Harry Caray video for seventh inning stretch

Winners and losers from the NFL draft

Brooklyn Decker expecting first child with Andy Roddick

Michigan using other programs' draftees to recruit players?

Texas staffer takes shots at Baylor, Texas A&M during draft

Rob Gronkowski wears awesome suit to Kentucky Derby

WATCH: Bryce Petty reacts to being drafted by the Jets

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Winners and losers from the NFL draft

Report: Zac Stacy traded to Jets

Hardy apologizes for joke about 9/11

Jerry Jones sends letter to Pacquiao

Mayweather bans Beadle, Nichols

WATCH: A-Rod fights back tears

A-Rod hits 660th home run, ties Willie Mays

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Celebrities make their picks

Ryan Succop offers to arm-wrestle Marcus Mariota for No. 8

Laila Ali rips Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Peterson wants more money from Vikes

Chip Kelly just doesn’t care about defense

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.