SANTA CLARA — The New England Patriots’ victory over the 49ers on Sunday was procedural.
It seemed almost preordained that the visitors would win the game that was so well attended by Pats fans, it would’ve made a reasonable person double check where they were.
In his first-ever game against the favorite team of his childhood, Tom Brady put together a few drives that made it clear why he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Meanwhile, the Niners couldn’t capitalize on a few early opportunities, allowing the future Hall of Fame quarterback to take over the game late.
As a result, the 49ers fell for a franchise-worst, ninth-straight game as the Pats coasted to a 30-17 win.
The 49ers offense struggled from the opening kickoff, playing on a rare wet day in the South Bay. Their first drive was three-and-out and Danny Amendola returned the punt into the home team’s territory, giving Tom Brady a short field to work from. The San Mateo-born quarterback eventually found Julian Edelman, of Redwood City, in the corner of the end zone for the game’s first score.
Colin Kaepernick answered by leading the Niners on a 12-play, 60-yard drive that stalled out just outside of the red zone, leading Phil Dawson onto the field for his 400th made field goal.
“You can’t match them seven for three and stay in the ballgame,” Chip Kelly said after the game. “That was unfortunate to get in the red zone and get knocked back on first down and second down. That’s something you can’t do against a good football team.”
A couple coinciding factors worked against the Niners after halftime. After drizzling the entire first half, the skies “opened up,” and with the home team trailing 13-10, Kelly said they felt compelled to throw more often than they would’ve preferred. But there’s a problem with that approach, according to the coach.
“We’re not good enough to throw it every down,” he explained.
Toward the end of the third quarter, as the rain started to dry up, Brady snapped back into form. He put together a masterful 80-yard drive that featured several plays in which the otherworldly quarterback scrambled and found receivers, including Amendola for a touchdown that extended New England’s lead to 20-10.
The game was put away when Brady hit Malcolm Mitchell in stride and none of the Niners defenders within arms reach of the speedy wide receiver could get a hand on him as he ran it in nearly untouched.
The loss was deflating, even if it was somewhat expected. Several 49ers players spoke of continuing to fight and doing their jobs — while Kelly said they wouldn’t “take their ball and go home” — resigning to the fact that the franchise continues its freefall from just three short years ago when it was in the NFC Championship.
“I don’t think 1-9 is a winning season,” Kelly quipped when asked if this year has amounted to a lost season.
The Niners have an underwhelming roster that has been depleted by injuries. They are struggling in almost every phase of the game, and when you take that to a competition against Brady and the Pats, it’s a tough ask to expect anything dissimilar to what happened in Santa Clara on Sunday.
You can reach Jacob C. Palmer via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.