Randy Moss vs. San Francisco 49ers
A 30-21 win over the San Francisco 49ers included the exact ingredients to fix what ailed the New England Patriots. A little Randy Moss going deep, Matt Cassel 22 of 32 with 259 yards passing and a whole lot of ball control offense and some key defensive stops had the Patriots in full control during the last half of this game.
Moss had 5 catches for 111 yards and Kevin Faulk had two rushing scores while the Patriots defense held Frank Gore to just 54 yards on 12 carries and J.T. O'Sullivan to 130 yards passing while picking him off three times.
It was the perfect rebound from the poor perfromance of two weeks ago.
A pair of interceptions highlighted the early going. The first was caused by Aubrayo Franklin hitting Cassel just as he was about to throw. The timing was just enough to affect Cassel's throw and Takeo Spikes had an easy interception.
Brandon Meriweather got the ball back for the Patriots on the next play from scrimmage. O'Sullivan looked long down the middle of the field to Delanie Walker but Meriweather had good coverage, knocking the ball up in the air. As both players came down, the ball fell into Meriweather's midsection and he held on for the pick.
]()Starting from his own 4, Cassel was unable to move the ball and the Patriots punted after three plays. A good return by San Fran's Nate Clement gave the 49ers first and 10 from the New England 30. Three plays later O'Sullivan found Gore from 16 yards out for the game's first touchdown.
New England struck back quickly. On third and 8 from his 34, Cassel dropped back and watched Moss split two 49er defenders deep downfield. Cassel's heave was perfect and Moss strode into the end zone untouched to tie the game. It was Moss' longest touchdown as a Patriot.
With plenty of time still in the first quarter, the 49ers scored again on their next possession. A mix-up in the Patriots secondary allowed Isaac Bruce to be wide open for a 38-yard completion. At New England's 23, Gore broke off a 16-yard run to the left sideline. O'Sullivan followed that play with 6-yard touchdown strike to Bruce to put his team back up by 7.
The Patriots opened the second quarter with a third and 8 stop of the 49ers, getting the ball on their 34 after the punt. After two Lamont Jordan runs for 11 yards, Cassel looked deep to Moss again. This time the ball was slightly underthrown and the 49ers were on top of things. Clements adjusted and turned to make the interception.
The turnover amounted to nothing for San Fran as it punted after three plays and New England took over at its 43.
The Patriots offense took to the ground for most of the drive that followed. Jordan, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk all had carries mixed in with a Jabar Gaffney 11-yard catch to convert a third 9 midway through the series. Things looked promising deep in 49er territory but on third and 6 from the 12, Cassel was flushed from the pocket, banged into Nick Kaczur and was sacked. That brought out Stephen Gostkowski for a 35-yard field goal attempt that he made to make the score 14-10.
With just over three minutes left in the first half, Cassel led his first hurry-up scoring effort of the season, an 80-yard, 11-play drive. He started things off with an 18-yard out to Moss to the New England 38. Moss would catch another pass for 14 but it was Faulk who eventually toted the ball over the goal line from 2-yards out. A huge penalty on the 49ers Justin Smith gave the Patriots a new life when he grabbed Cassel's helmet on what would have been a third and 6 sack. The personal foul gave New England a first down on the 49ers 6-yard line. Faulk's run came two plays later with just nine seconds left to play.
]()The Patriots added to their lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter. The scoring drive was set up by a nice defensive play by Rodney Harrison who stepped in front of a pass intended for Arnaz Battle, tipped the ball into the air and came up with the pick. The Patriots offense took over on the 49ers 24 and took six plays to score six, a direct snap 2-yard run for Faulk.
Along with its 24-14 lead, New England was building a big spread in the time of possession battle, 29:00 to 10:36 to that point in the game.
For some reason, Mike Nolan's team had decided to stop throwing downfield, something the 49ers were successful doing very early in the game. New England's defense had everything else San Fan wanted to do sniffed out and the game was becoming very one-sided. As the third quarter closed out, the Patriots were in control of the ball again after forcing the 49ers to three and out.
This time Cassel was unable to find the end zone after a 7-play drive but Gostkowski remained perfect on his field goal attempts this season, banging home a 40-yarder to make the score 27-14 with 14:53 left to play.
O'Sullivan finally did look downfield on his next series and it paid off with a pass interference penalty on Meriweather who locked arms with Battle. The 31-yard pick-up for the 49ers brought the ball to the Patriots 8-yard line. After Gore ran for 3 yards, O'Sullivan found Bruce along the back of the end zone for the score. In all it was an 80-yard drive for the 49ers in 11 plays to close the gap to six points at 27-21 with 10:22 remaining.
New England needed to make it a two-score game once again. Starting at his 28, Cassel hit Welker for gains of 12 and 6 and Moss on third and 2 for 8 yards to the 49ers 44. His 8-yard pass to Faulk on second 8 was originally ruled short of the first down marker but Bill Belichick challenged the spot and was correct, making it a first down play to the 34.
Morris ran for no gain and Cassel threw incomplete from there. On third and 10, Moss was flagged for offensive pass interference bringing up third and 20 from the 44. Cassel hit Gaffney over the middle for 13 yards setting up a 49-yard field goal attempt for Gostkowski. With his streak on the line, Gostkowski cooly nailed it, his 17th in a row this season.
Now the 49ers needed a quick score and an even quicker defensive stand but an Adalius Thomas sack for a loss of 8 followed by a Deltha O'Neal interception of O'Sullivan's fourth and 16 bid essentially ended this one.
With the 30-21 win, New England moves to 3-1 on the season and will stay on the West Coast to prepare for the San Diego Chargers.