Loss a lesson learned for Patriots defense

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Loss a lesson learned for Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- The Patriots defense needed a stop and they brought the house. Then San Francisco's quarterback, with all of five starts to his name, stood tall in the face of the seven-man rush and hit Michael Crabtree on a quick hitch that turned into a 38-yard touchdown.

Colin Kaepernick's fourth touchdown throw of the night proved to be the game-winner in the Niners' 41-34 win, and a missed opportunity for the Patriots defense.

"We run that call several times during the game," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick of the blitz. "We obviously just didn't play it well."

Kaepernick made a habit of taking advantage of the Patriots defense on Sunday night, and he started early. His first three attempts of the game went for first downs. His fifth pass went to former Patriots receiver Randy Moss for a 24-yard touchdown when Alfonzo Dennard was beaten on a seam route down the middle of the field.

The Niners second-year quarterback finished 14-for-25 with 216 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception.

"He's been poised throughout," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. "Nothing seems to rattle him. He's been able to just play his game. Even last week against Miami, game on the line, important drive, and he keeps it and runs down the sideline for a touchdown. We knew we weren't going to really rattle him or get him out of the game. We knew that he was a tough player."

The Patriots defense forced three Niners punts in the second half to allow Tom Brady and the rest of New England's offense to make their improbable comeback -- all the way back from 31-3 to tie the game at 31-31 -- but it also left plays on the field that would have made a comeback unnecessary.

The Niners fumbled six times -- including four during the center-quarterback exchange -- yet the Patriots recovered just one.

Dennard was beat a second time when he got caught in no-man's land covering two receivers on Kaepernick's second touchdown throw, a 34-yard touchdown pass to Delanie Walker.

Kaepernick's third touchdown toss -- a 27-yarder to Crabtree -- was squeezed in between McCourty and Steve Gregory, both of whom appeared to be a step late to the play.

The Niners got plenty of help. Patriots turnovers gave San Francisco good field position time and again. And one could argue the lack of Patriots fumble recoveries had to do with bad bounces, bad luck, rather than poor play.

But the mistakes -- when a player was slow in coverage, or in the wrong position -- came down to execution, the Patriots admitted.

"We dug ourselves a hole early and we couldn't fight out of it," Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "But the way we played, we can't beat anybody. We had opportunities, but we didn't make anything happen with some opportunities and we left a lot of plays on the field. You have to give them credit. They came in, they capitalized on our mistakes and that's what any good football team does."

The Patriots noted last week that they had to try to familiarize themselves quickly with all the different formations and personnel groupings used by the 49ers. They said after the game that they believed they had a good grasp of what San Francisco could do, they just didn't show it.

"It was a different look," said Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich of the Niners "pistol" offense. "You don't make excuses. They're a big, physical team. That's one thing we pride ourselves on is stopping the run with being physical and aggressive. You gotta give them credit of being able to give a different look and spinning the dial on us."

"Any time we lose a game it's disappointing," added Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. "But especially one like this where we had a good game plan. We just didn't go out and play. We couldn't get turnovers. We've been getting turnovers all year on the defensive side of the ball and we couldn't get any turnovers today."

They did recover a fumble deep in their own territory when Gregory forced a ball to the ground that was recovered by cornerback Aqib Talib, which helped keep the Patriots deficit to 7-0 after one quarter. They also got an interception in their own end zone by Devin McCourty, his second in as many games.

But on a messy night, against an inexperienced quarterback, and with their offense struggling against the top-ranked Niners defense, the Patriots 'D' knew it needed to make more impact plays.

For a unit that had been building confidence over the course of the last month as it put together solid performance after solid performance, Sunday night was a step back.

"You learn a lesson on this one," Ninkovich said. "It was like the tables were turned on us. For the first time we were playing from behind. We were not getting the turnovers, they were getting the turnovers. This one hurts. It doesn't leave a good taste in our mouth. I'll put it that way."

"We're still confident," he added. "You don't lose your confidence. I think this is a lesson learned as far as the wrong way to play a game. You learn your lesson, come in tomorrow, we're gonna watch the tape, work out and move on. Get ready for the next team. That's the way you have to look at it. You can't look at it for too long."

Report: Marchand agrees to eight-year extension with Bruins

Report: Marchand agrees to eight-year extension with Bruins

The Bruins took care of their biggest priority today as they reached agreement with Brad Marchand on an eight-year contract extension, according to several reports.

Elliotte Friedman reports Marchand has agreed to an eight year, $49 millionextension ($6.125 million per season) that will effectively allow him to finish his career in Boston.

It was felt the Bruins would have been playing with fire if they allowed Marchand -- a 37-goal scorer last year -- to start the season unsigned, especially after he ripped up the World Cup of Hockey competition on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby. Bruins president Cam Neely told CSN a couple of weeks ago that Boston was aiming to get the deal done with Marchand prior to the start of the regular season. In fact, they managed to get it done before the start of even the preseason.

Marchand has consistently said that he wants to finish out his career with the Bruins, who drafted and developed him and with whom he turned into an elite player in the last couple of years. He’s clearly taking a hometown discount to stick with Boston.

This is what Marchand said to CSN on breakup day last April:

“I obviously love being a part of this organization, this city and this team, and I don’t think this team is done having some good runs. I would love to be a part of this organization for the rest of my career, but the reality is when you look around the league that it doesn’t happen for many guys. We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

Well, the time came and Marchand put his money where his sometimes big mouth usually is. The Bruins agitator easily could have demanded a yearly salary of $7 million-plus in free agency.

Credit to Don Sweeney and Neely for closing the deal with Marchand, and ticking one very important thing off their checklist that will help make the Bruins great again.

McDaniels: 'Wouldn't surprise me' if Belichick coached into his 70s

McDaniels: 'Wouldn't surprise me' if Belichick coached into his 70s

When will Bill Belichick retire? The Patriots coach is 64 years old, and he's been on record saying that he won't be coaching into his 70s like former Bills head coach Marv Levy. But it sure seems like Belichick has plenty of energy to stay at the job for some time, and the results, you may have noticed, have been pretty good. 

MORE FROM McDANIELS: 'Don't know' who'll play quarterback Sunday

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels joined WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning, and he was asked about how much longer his boss might work. Would McDaniels be surprised if Belichick coached into his 70s despite what he said on NFL Network's A Football Life documentary back in 2009?

"It wouldn't surprise me," McDaniels said. "I know Bill loves football. His drive and his passion for the game and to try to do everything we can to prepare our team to win each week, I haven't seen one change in it. It's a great privilege to coach for him. He certainly kind of sets the tone for us. I don't see any difference in that since when I first started here. I look forward to coaching for him for as long as he'll let me."

Some have speculated that McDaniels could be the next head coach of the Patriots whenever Belichick decides to hang up his whistle. The 40-year-old has been up for head coaching positions since he's returned for his second stint in New England, but he's still with the organization that gave him his first NFL job in 2001. 

McDaniels, who left to be the head coach of the Broncos in 2009 and 2010, was asked if he values the offensive coordinator job with the Patriots more than a head coaching opportunity that might not be the perfect fit.

"I love where I'm at," McDaniels said. "I've said before I think we all have aspirations to grow and get better and improve and potentially move up and what have you. Who knows? Maybe that day happens, maybe it doesn't. But I know this: I'm really thankful to have the opprtunity that I have to coach the players we have here and to work underneath Bill and Robert [Kraft] and the Kraft family. It's a privilege here. I feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world. Just thankful that I have an opportunity to come here and do it each week."