FOXBORO - On the surface, this week's opponent for the Patriots - the San Francisco 49ers - has a lot in common with last week's.
But on closer inspection, the differences between the Niners and Houston - this week and in general - show divergent approaches and mindsets. And because of that, this "measuring stick" game is going to end with both sides feeling like they got pummeled with lead pipes. Because as daunting as Houston's defense was, it didn't have the horses because of injuries and it didn't show the same aggression San Francisco does. The Niners have allowed more than 24 points once all season (26 to the Giants in a 26-3 loss in mid-October). Since the end of September, they've allowed 0, 3, 26, 6, 3, 24, 7, 21, 16 and 13. They've allowed 16 touchdowns all year. They haven't gradually built to prominence under Jim Harbaugh. They've stormed the castle, going to the NFC Championship last year and setting their sights on New Orleans this season.