Entering Sunday's game in San Francisco, New England had never won a game on the road against the 49ers, while the Patriots had gone four consecutive games scoring fewer than 20 points. Both streaks would come to an end, as New England came from behind on two separate occasions to pull out a 30-21 win on the road, keeping pace in a suddenly competitive AFC East division.
In the process, backup quarterback Matt Cassel had his best game as a pro, completing 22 of 32 passes for 259 yards and a score. He did a throw a pair of picks in the first half, but helped to overcome those mistakes by throwing a 66-yard strike to Randy Moss for the teams first score, and averaging over eight-yards per pass attempt in the win.
49ers Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan threw two touchdowns in the first quarter -- one to Frank Gore, the other to Isaac Bruce -- giving San Francisco a pair of seven point leads, only to see the Patriots quickly respond and erase each deficit.
Aside from Cassel's solid day throwing the ball, the Patriots also used a running back by committee approach, getting 144 yards on 43 carries from an assortment of backs, including Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, Lamont Jordan and Laurence Maroney. Morris led the way with 63 yards, while Faulk scored on a pair of two-yard runs, including one in the final ten-seconds of the first half, which was ultimately the game-winning score.
For San Francisco, O'Sullivan managed to throw three touchdowns, but was held to only 14 completions on 29 attempts, including three interceptions. Statistically, it was O'Sullivan's worst game of the season, and his second consecutive start where he's posted a passer rating lower than 60.
It's actually somewhat amazing this game ended up being as close as it was, considering the Patriots dominated the time of possession battle (nearly 40 minutes to 20 minutes) and had 25 first downs to the 49ers 12.
49ers linebacker Patrick Willis continued to be a tackling machine, registering 18 stops -- and a sack -- in the loss.
New England travels to San Diego for a Sunday night battle with the Chargers, while the 49ers host Philadelphia at 4:15.