Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/21/12
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

Geno Smith ‘kind of pissed off’ about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s return

Bell admits he knew about missed drug test, lied to media

Report: Chargers rookie Joey Bosa to hold out of camp

Doc Rivers blames ‘bloggers’ for Blake Griffin trade rumors

Jason Peters: Eagles practiced too much under Chip Kelly

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Giants’ Victor Cruz cleared to practice

PETA sends Warren Sapp vegan lobster following shark bite

Report: Josh McCown has looked better at times than RG3

Mike Trout does David Ortiz impersonation

Suspended Steelers WR Martavis Bryant set to help coach HS football

Tickets for ‘Monday Night Football’ game in Mexico sell out

Luck refutes Matt Hasselbeck’s assertion he never showers

Newspaper editor explains use of Jordan meme for MJ article

Five NFL teams set to underachieve in 2016

WATCH: Belichick gets annoyed by Jimmy Garoppolo question

Ronda Rousey denies being pregnant despite rumor

Eight most overpaid offensive players in NFL

Giants acquire All-Star Eduardo Nunez from the Twins

Vikings QB injured trying to kick open door

Josh Gordon thankful for support from Browns

Report: Seahawks DE Chris Clemons retiring

Denard Robinson blames falling asleep at stoplight for pond crash

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

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

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker