After 28 unanswered points, however, Tom Brady and Co. looked to quell that chatter and remind everyone just how good New England is—attempting to take down two of the league's best defenses in back-to-back weeks.
Instead, rookie running back LaMichael James shifted the momentum back to the 49ers with a kickoff return in the fourth quarter:
That LaMichael James kick return in the 4th quarter was the play of the game. Really changes the momentum of the game.— Matthew DiBona (@MJ_DiBona) December 17, 2012
James' kick return was important because it led to a short field and quarterback Colin Kaepernick's career-high fourth touchdown pass on the night:
That Crabtree TD and the James kick return were great examples of how the concept of in-game momentum is total nonsense.— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) December 17, 2012
Kaepernick's permanent insertion in the starting lineup came with much criticism, but the quarterback is learning quickly on the fly against quality opponents:
Hugely impressed w Kaepernick tonight, though.There will be growing pains & 49ers got conservative, but mature game vs toughest away play.— Collin McCollough (@cmccollo) December 17, 2012
While the momentum comment can be debated, it was that play that let 49ers' fans breathe a bit easier. San Francisco eventually beat the Patriots by a score of 41-34:
The NFL schedule makers can't get it right every time, but Sunday night's heavyweight battle was just an example of how great the game of football can be:
That was definitely a game worth staying up late for. #SNF— Dan Noellsch (@tigerdan4) December 17, 2012
After Sunday night's classic, however, Monday Night Football gives us a matchup on the other end of the spectrum:
After convincing wins last week, the 49ers and Patriots entered Sunday night's tilt with plenty of chatter surrounding a Super Bowl preview. If the result can be duplicated come February, how could anyone not welcome a rematch?
Can't wait to see these two teams in New Orleans.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 17, 2012
While the Atlanta Falcons (12-2) are the top seed in the NFC, the 49ers (10-3-1) have to be considered a huge threat after Sunday night's win over the Patriots. However, next Sunday night's matchup with the Seattle Seahawks (9-5) could vault San Francisco to the top of the NFC hierarchy.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.