The New England Patriots lost for the first time in ten tries, but it wasn't for lack of effort as Tom Brady's squad nearly pulled off the biggest upset in regular season history.
New England was sloppy early, setting San Francisco up with great field position over and over again as they fell behind 31-3 in the third quarter. Many assumed the Pats' night was done, but 300 yards of Brady passing and four touchdowns later, the score was knotted at 31. The rally was too good to be true, as the 49ers went ahead for good on a score by Michael Crabtree. For Greg Knopping of Patriots blog Pats Pulpit, the comeback took the sting out of what should have been an ugly loss as he wrote in his postgame recap:
While the loss essentially eliminates any chance the Patriots had at the first seed, you can't help but be happy with the resilience the team showed. Instead of rolling over, they fought, and fought hard against the NFL's best defense. They proved they are capable of beating any team, no matter the situation. Sure, it would have been nice to complete the greatest comeback in regular season history, but there are certainly positives to take out of this... although no one in the Patriots organization would acknowledge any moral victories.
However, at the end of the day, the loss shows up in the loss column, despite the furious comeback, as Tony Santorsa wrote while examining the game in further detail:
That was almost a comeback for the ages.
The New England Patriots almost pulled it off. The New England Patriots almost overcame a 28-point deficit—but it didn't happen.
There was some talk about whether Bill Belichick made the right decision going for it on fourth-and-two late instead of punting, but Knopping stood behind the coach. Besides, it wasn't Belichick's late-game decision that put the team in a 28-point deficit in the first place.