Niners prove they're fighters with win over Patriots


Niners prove they're fighters with win over Patriots

FOXBORO -- Jim Harbaugh used to live next to a train station in Chicago when he played quarterback for the Bears.

The more he heard the trains, the less he heard them. The loud noise became normal after a while. He was used to the sound.

Following Sunday night's 41-34 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, Harbaugh said he felt the same way about his San Francisco 49ers.

The more pressure they feel, the less they feel it.

Sounds about right, as his team clinched a playoff berth by earning their 10th win of the season against a Patriots team that had just embarrassed the Houston Texans -- the team with the most wins in the NFL.

The 49ers held a 31-3 lead over the Patriots in the third quarter. It was the exact opposite start that the Texans had on Monday night.

That says something, considering the fact that when people lined up Weeks 14 and 15 for the Patriots, their Week 14 game against Houston was a potential AFC Championship preview, and their Week 15 game against the 49ers was a potential Super Bowl preview.

Whether or not either scenario happens, the 49ers did exactly what the Texans couldn't do to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. They got off to a hot start.

"A great victory," said Harbaugh afterwards. "I really love the way our team sucked it up so many times. We didn't make all the plays. But we made a lot of plays . . . They made plays too, but we made more."

The 49ers were forced to make one more play than the Patriots midway through the fourth quarter, thanks to New England's comeback that tied the game at 31-31.

But a short Colin Kaepernick pass to Michael Crabtree that resulted in a 38-yard touchdown pass, put San Francisco up 38-31, and was the difference.

All coming with the pressure of having to one-up Tom Brady in his own building.

"This is a great win," said Harbaugh. "Our team now, they've played in a lot of big-time pressure games. They've overcome adversity, shown they can do that.

"I used to live next to a train station in Chicago. It's like, the more you hear the train, the less you hear it. I feel that way with our team, in terms of pressure in big games . . . The more you feel it, the less you feel it. So I feel good about that. I feel good about our team in those big-game situations."

The Texans didn't show up in Monday night's big-game situation. After that loss, they said that the Patriots taught them "how to play championship football."

On Sunday night, the 49ers weren't hanging their heads like the Texans were in the very same visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium. But they certainly weren't crowning themselves Super Bowl champions, either.

"It just shows that we fight, man," said 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis after the win. "We're a fighting team, and we're going to play for 60 minutes."

"It let us see where we're at, going against a great team with a great quarterback," said running back Frank Gore. "And we pulled it off. We've just got to keep taking it one day at a time, just keep working as a team, and try to get where we're trying to go."

San Francisco is trying to go to New Orleans. That's the site of the Super Bowl. But even after a win against a Patriots team that has a chance to be representing the AFC in that Super Bowl, the 49ers realize they still have a lot of work to do.

They're just glad they did what the Texans couldn't. They now know that they can win the big game, if they get to it.

"It proved that we can win against a good offense," said Crabtree. "We can win a shootout. Whatever it takes. That's our motto. I feel like we can do anything. The sky's the limit."

That's a phrase Randy Moss used to use when he played for the Patriots. Now as a member of the 49ers, Moss left the visiting locker room without speaking to the media. He got dressed, tossed on his "Beats by Dre" headphones, grabbed his suitcase, and rolled it down the tunnel to the team bus.

He couldn't hear questions from reporters if he wanted to. He was blocking it out. Similar to how the 49ers blocked out the pressure on Sunday night in New England. Similar to how Harbaugh blocked out the sound of passing trains in Chicago.

Unlike the Texans, the 49ers left New England, knowing where they stand.

"It's a huge task," said Harbaugh. "It's a huge challenge. This environment in December, not a lot of teams have been successful.

"So yeah, it will be a happy flight home."

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

Click here for the complete story