EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 15, 2012

Sizing em up: Pats vs. 49ers


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — :Tonight, 8:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color20 p.m., at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro.Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color

TV:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color Ch. 7 (Al Michaels Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

Radio:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color 98.5 FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos and Scott Zolak)

The series:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorSan Francisco leads 7-4, but Pats have won the previous three, dating back to 1998

Previous meeting:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color Pats 30-21, Oct. 5, 2008 at Candlestick Park

Las Vegas line:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color Patriots -5.5; Over-under total: 46.5

2012 STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

Patriots 49ers

10-3 Record 9-3-1

1st, AFC East Standings 1st, NFC West

425.7 (1) Offense 360.1 (12)

139.9 (7) Rushing 161.5 (2)

285.8 (5) Passing 198.5 (26)

376.3 (26) Defense 275.5 (2)

100.8 (8) Rushing 90.8 (2)

275.5 (29) Passing 184.7

+24 Turnover margin +6

BY THE NUMBERS

Patriots

6 – Games in a row in which Stevan Ridley has scored a touchdown.

13 – New England’s current December winning streak, dating back to 2009 – best active streak in the NFL. Also, the Pats are 23-2 in the final four games of the regular season dating back to 2006?

16 – When Donte Stallworth scored on his 63-yard reception from Tom Brady last week, he became the 16th different Patriot to score a touchdown this season.

202 – Somehow it doesn’t seem fair, but with 202 wins, Bill Belichick still trails Marty Schottenheimer (205) for sixth on the NFL’s all-time list.

49ers

9 – Current head coaches who played in the NFL, led by San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, who played 15 seasons.

22 – Niners offensive drives of five minutes or more, which is tied for third in the league. The Niners have scored 12 TDs on those drives, which is tops in the NFL.

4.45 – Yards per play allowed by the San Francisco defense, tops in the NFL.

25 – Drives allowed into the red zone, which also is No. 1.

Keys for Patriots

1. Score the football – Touchdowns. They have been the name of the game since Tom Brady took over in 2001. No other team scores with such ease. Stick to what you do and watch the Niners panic.

2. Win it on the edge – We often talk in big games of the QB matchup … Brady vs. Manning, Rodgers vs. Brees, etc. In this one, the matchup the Pats must win is at the end of the line. Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones must cause more havoc than Aldon Smith and Justin Smith. The better edge production will decide this game.

3. Account for Hunter – Frank Gore is money, one of the top three backs in the game. He doesn’t scare me. What does is if the 49ers find a way to get young gun Kendall Hunter into space. He’s an explosion waiting to happen.

Hector Longo’s prediction: Patriots 31, Niners 20; Longo’s record: 9-4 straight up; 4-8-1 vs. the spread)

Analysis: Thirty is the magic number. The ‘85 Bears couldn’t have held this Pats offense under 30 points, and I don’t expect these Niners to either. I say that coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t intelligent enough to realize that. He’ll come to Foxboro with a game plan, on paper, to beat the Pats, 17-14. Inevitably, Tom Brady torches those like dry kindling, and we’re left with an effort like the Texans gave on Monday night, huddling and running the football when down 3 TDs in the third quarter. San Francisco is good. But in Foxboro, Pat Willis can’t stop Pat Patriot.