MAKING THE GRADE
Bull's-eye throws produced the first three of Colin Kaepernick's career-high four touchdown passes. Michael Crabtree came through in the clutch on Kaepernick's final scoring toss, a 38-yarder that featured 33 yards after the catch. Randy Moss and Delanie Walker also caught touchdown passes. Vernon Davis had only a 10-yard catch, but Kaepernick overthrew him on a potential touchdown.
Not bad, but the 49ers couldn't run effectively enough to slow the Patriots' second-half comeback. Frank Gore had 117 all-purpose yards, and his 1,118 rushing yards this season are seventh best in the league. LaMichael James looks like Kendall Hunter 2.0, or at least a capable rookie replacement.
The 49ers did just enough to survive Tom Brady's career-high 65 passes. Soft coverage in the second half nearly doomed this season's best victory. Carlos Rogers notched his first interception this season, as did Aldon Smith, who went without a sack for the first time in eight games.
With Seattle's Marshawn Lynch on the horizon, it is a concern that Danny Woodhead ran for two second-half touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards a carry (12 carries, 61 yards). Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen both lost fumbles, a rarity by opposing running backs. NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis each had 11 tackles.
Instead of talking about Andy Lee's season-best net average of 54 yards per punt or Dashon Goldson's 31-yard run on a fake punt, this unit again coped with a missed field-goal attempt by David Akers, who pushed a 39-yarder wide left before making 20- and 28-yard chip shots. Ted Ginn's return ability is becoming an alarming issue.
What a mixed bag this was in terms of building a 31-3 lead and forfeiting it in the second half. Play calls mirrored the up-and-down nature. But the staff deserves kudos for instilling enough confidence and schemes to provide a victorious finish. Next up, their good buddy Pete Carroll with the NFC West title still up for grabs.