The 49ers' 41-34 victory at New England wasn't enough to earn them the top spot in the Associated Press Pro32 NFL Power Rankings.
The Denver Broncos and 49ers each received six first-place votes from a panel of 12 media members, but Denver ranked first after outpointing the 49ers 375-372 in the closest voting of the season.
The 49ers and Broncos both moved up one spot in the rankings. The Patriots dropped from first to third after losing to the 49ers, who led them by 18 points.
The No. 4 Atlanta Falcons swapped spots with No. 5 Houston Texans.
The Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers' next opponent, ranked eighth.
Here are the voters' comments on the 49ers after Week 15, as provided by the AP (voter affiliation and ranking in parentheses):
Chris Berman (ESPN, 1) -- Came into New England expecting to win and did so ... Wow!
Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 1) -- Colin Kaepernick's playmaking adds to offense's explosiveness.
Cris Collinsworth (NBC Sports, 2) -- Comment unavailable
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 1) -- Best defense in football right now and Kaepernick getting better each week.
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 1) -- Maybe the biggest regular season win in the Jim Harbaugh era. Not only a dominating early showing against the Pats on the road, but a terrific recovery after New England's furious comeback. Now it's on to Seattle against the streaking Seahawks.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 3) -- It's not Colin Kaepernick that makes the 49ers so dangerous; it's the league's best defense, and I call Tom Brady to the witness stand.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 2) -- For one half on a rainy night in Foxborough, they looked Super Bowl-bound.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 3) -- What an impressive win in Foxborough. The Kaepernick experiment looks like a great move at this point.
John Lynch (Fox Sports, 4) -- 49ers were extremely impressive winning on Sunday night in Foxborough. They stay behind the likes of the Broncos and Patriots and Packers because I still need to see more from Kaepernick. He can make the big plays, but will he give the ball away?
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 1) -- We now have our answer after San Francisco's 41-34 win at New England -- 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (four touchdowns) is ready for prime time.
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 1) -- If you throw out games against the Rams, they have won six in a row, including one of the most impressive victories of the year by any team Sunday.