The Patriots and 49ers will meet for the first time since 1998, ending what is currently the longest gap between games among any Patriots opponent. The cross-country adversaries will meet for the 10th time overall, with the Niners holding a 7-2 lead in the previous nine games of the series. The last time the teams tangled, the Patriots clinched a playoff berth with a last-second 24-21 win on Dec. 20, 1998 at Foxboro Stadium. Prior to that game, San Francisco had won six consecutive games against New England dating back to 1980. Besides the 1998 playoff clincher, the only other game the Patriots have won in the series came in 1975, when the Patriots jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and held on for a 24-16 win at Schaefer Stadium. The Niners will travel to Foxborough for the sixth time in team history, with San Francisco holding a 3-2 advantage in the five previous meetings between the teams in the Bay State.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Patriots have recorded a 22-3 (.880) all-time record at Gillette Stadium, including regular-season and postseason games. New England has won 18 consecutive regular-season and postseason contests at home, compiling the longest current home winning streak in the NFL. New England has not lost at home since a 30-17 defeat to the New York Jets on Dec. 22, 2002. The Patriots' .880 winning percentage at Gillette Stadium is the highest of any NFL team at its current home.
SOLID PLAY IN JANUARY
The Patriots will play a regular-season game in the month of January for the fifth time in team history and have won all four of their previous regular-season games in the month. The last time the Patriots played a regular-season game in January was in the 2001 season finale, when the Patriots defeated Carolina 38-6 on Jan. 6, 2002. Including the postseason, the Patriots have won each of their last six games in the month of January, dating back to the 1998 playoffs.
Tom Brady is slated to play against the 49ers for the first time in his career. Brady has compiled a record of 23-6 (.793) when facing a team for the first time. This season, he is 4-0 when facing new teams (Arizona, Seattle, Baltimore and Cincinnati). After this week's game, the only team Brady will have not yet faced will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One of the oldest mantras in sports is that it doesn't matter where you start a season, but it does matter where you finish it. The Patriots have done a remarkable job of finishing strong over the past two-plus seasons, as they have compiled a 35-5 (.875) record after November 1 since the 2001 season.
THIS WEEK IN PATRIOTS HISTORY
December 27 - January 2
Dec. 28, 1963 - In the first playoff game in team history, the Boston Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 26-8 in an AFL divisional playoff game in Buffalo. Boston advanced to the AFL championship, where it fell to San Diego.
Dec. 28, 1985 - The Patriots scored the first playoff victory in team history with a 26-14 victory over the New York Jets in an AFC wild card game at Giants Stadium.
Jan. 2, 1994 - In the final game of the 1993 regular season, linebacker Andre Tippett recorded his 100th career sack in his final NFL game. On that day, the Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 33-27 in overtime.
Dec. 27, 2003 - The Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 31-0 to close out the most successful regular season in team history, finishing the year with a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
- Patriots tight end Christian Fauria was a Seattle Seahawk for seven years (1995-2001), during which time he was under the leadership of many members of the current 49ers coaching staff, including Head Coach Dennis Erickson (95-98), running backs coach Tim Lappano (1998), associate head coach/ linebackers coach Greg McMackin (1995-98), quarterbacks coach Rich Olson (1995-98), defensive coordinator Willy Robinson (1995-98), assistant head coach/ offensive line coach Gregg Smith (1995-98) and wide receivers coach Eric Yarber (1998).
- San Francisco secondary coach Ron Lynn was a member of the Patriots coaching staff from 1997-99.
- Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was reared under the tutelage of 49ers special teams coordinator Larry MacDuff, who was defensive coordinator for Arizona while Bruschi was part of the 'Desert Swarm' defense there.
- New England punter Josh Miller was also a member of the Arizona team during MacDuff's tenure.
- 49ers wide receiver Arnaz Battle was on the receiving corps with Patriot David Givens for three years at Notre Dame.
- San Francisco tight end Eric Johnson was born in Needham, Massachusetts and attended Needham High School. He then matriculated to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
- New England linebacker Tully Banta-Cain was a teammate of Andre Carter at the University of California from 1999-2000.
- Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest and San Francisco wide receiver Curtis Conway were teammates at Southern Cal from 1990-92.
- Conway was then a teammate of safety Rodney Harrison with the San Diego Chargers from 2000-2002.
- 49ers quarterback Ken Dorsey and Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork won a national title together for the University of Miami in 2001.
- Patriots tight end Jed Weaver played for San Francisco in 2003 and set career highs in receptions and receiving yards.
- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was born in San Mateo, Calif., and attended Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, where he is a member of the school's hall of fame.
- New England safety Eugene Wilson and San Francisco wide receiver Brandon Lloyd were both Illinois Fighting Illini from 2000-02.
- Patriots running back Corey Dillon played at the University of Washington for one year, 1996, during which time 49ers safety Tony Parrish was his teammate.
- Corey Dillon was then a member of the Cincinnati Bengals for 7 years, six of which he was a member of the offense with 49ers center Brock Gutierrez (1997-2002).
- Tony Parrish and Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin were both Chicago Bears from 1999-2001; Curtis Conway was also a member of the team in 1999.
The Patriots have recorded a 13-2 mark in 2004, tying the best mark in franchise history through 15 games.
THE KRAFT ERA
The Patriots record at home since 1994, including preseason, regular-season and postseason games.
The Patriots' record at Gillette Stadium, including regular-season and postseason games (.880 win pct).
The Patriots' record in preseason, regular-season and postseason games since 1996 (.644 win pct).
The Patriots' regular-season record since 1996 (.629 win pct).
The Patriots' postseason record since 1996 (.750 win pct).
WHAT A RUSH
The number of yards per rush the Patriots are averaging as a team in 2004.
The number of seasons since the Patriots averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry as a team, dating back to the 1985 team's average of 4.1 yards per carry.
The number of yards rushing Corey Dillon has gained so far this season, setting a franchise record and career high and placing him fourth in the NFL despite having played in 14 of 15 games this season.
The number of games this season in which Dillon has passed the century mark in rushing yards, tying for second in the NFL and establishing a career high.
The number of 100-yard games Martin recorded in 1995, establishing a Patriots record.
The average number of yards Dillon has gained in the 14 games he has played this season, giving him the best yards-per-game played average among currently active NFL rushers.
The number of touchdowns Dillon has recorded in 2004, setting a career high.
The number of rushing yards Dillon is on pace to record this season.
The number of rushing attempts Dillon is on pace to record in 2004, which would be a career high and would place him second in Patriots' history.
The average number of points the Patriots have allowed through seven games at Gillette Stadium this season.
The number of sacks the Patriots have registered so far this season.
The number of sacks the Patriots will notch on the season if they continue at their current pace, the most since New England registered 48.0 sacks in 1986.
The number of Patriots defenders who have registered at least one sack on the season.
The number of games this season in which the Patriots have held opponents to fewer than 300 net yards.
THE BELICHICK ERA
Bill Belichick's overall record as head coach of the Patriots, including the regular season and the playoffs.
Belichick's record in New England when his team scores 25 points or more.
Belichick's record in New England when his team scores 21 points or more.
Consecutive games in which Tom Brady has started at quarterback.
Consecutive games in which Matt Light has started at left tackle.
Consecutive victories when producing a positive turnover differential.
Consecutive games in which the Patriots have scored first (23 games including playoffs).
Consecutive victories at Gillette Stadium (18 games including playoffs).
Consecutive games in which the Patriots have scored in the second quarter.
Consecutive overtime wins (8 games including playoffs).
Consecutive Patriots games televised locally, including preseason, regular-season and postseason games.
Consecutive sellouts in Foxborough, including preseason, regular-season and postseason games.
NOTE: All of the above streaks include regular-season games only, unless noted.
SCORING FIRST STREAK
The number of consecutive games in which the Patriots have scored first, including playoffs.
The number of times during the streak that the Patriots have scored first with a touchdown.
The number of times during the streak that the Patriots have scored first with a Corey Dillon rushing touchdown.
The number of times during the streak that he Patriots have scored first with a Daniel Graham receiving touchdown.
The number of times during the streak that the Patriots have scored first with an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
The number of times during the streak that the Patriots have scored on their first possession (11 TDs/6 FGs).
The number of times during the streak that the Patriots have scored after their opponent has had at least one possession.
The number of times during the streak that the Patriots have scored on the opening possession of the game.