This goes back away, even before last night. All the way back to 2001 when on a snowy night, I shut off the TV In disgust seconds after Rod Woodson's hit separated Brady from the ball, seemingly sealing the Pats playoff fate. I had never heard of the â€śtuck ruleâ€ť let alone knew the nuances of it. So I, instead, went to my computer., and logged on to the KFFL Raiders page to grudgingly congratulate them on a game well played. It was there I saw, â€śI had been mistakenâ€ť. By the time I got the TV back on, Brady had scored, and the Pats had the ball back.....and we all know the rest of that story. I severely berated myself for my lack of faith and faint-hardheartedness, and promised never to do something like that again. And for the most part, for the next 10 years, whenever I have watched a Patriots game, I have watched it all, regardless of the results. I watched every play of the 2003 opening game in Buffalo. I watched every play of the playoff loss to the Jets. I have persevered.....UNTIL Sunday night. The first time I turned the set off was after Gore scored on the fumble recovery. The combination of the fumble. the return, and the score off the broken play proved too much for my already shattered constitution. By the time I checked in again, it was worse 31-3. I had had enough. Its fun to watch the Pats put it on other teams, I wasn't going to watch it happen to the Pats. I shut it off thinking that â€śthis is how the other guys must feel" Later I turned it back on for just a second just to see how bad it had gotten, and caught the tail end of the Ninko sack. Why was the crowd going nuts. We aren't the kind of fans that go nuts even on a good play for us, when we are on the wrong side of a blowout. THEN I spotted the score 31-24. How the F did THAT happen? Of course, I watched the end. The thrilling tying drive. The painful Niner response. And the flawed attempts to retie the game. I had failed in my fandom. My team had had the mental toughness to nearly pull off a historic comeback, against all odds and common sense, but I, who merely was charged with rooting for his team even when things are going badly, failed to show that same mental toughness. I am ashamed. OK â€“ Now that I have that off my chest, I still have some observations from what I did see, and a few from what I can infer from the stats. As usual I hope I'm not too redundant, . 1. The loss was painful of course. But given the level of the comeback AND the defense we did it against., I'm sure we can find a lot of positives to fall back on. What we can't get back is the fact that we will playing on â€świldcard weekendâ€ť, and will probably have to win playoff games in Denver and Houston to get to the superbowl. That is NOT good. It will take great mental toughness to pull that off. BUT isn't that the most important thing we found out about this team on Sunday. That they have great mental toughness. (unlike some fans I know) 2. In a game were it was clear that a great defense had decided to shut down Welker and Hernandez by doubling them, we learned 2 key things. Doubling won't stop Hernandez. I think there are just too may ways the Pats can deploy him, for teams to shut him out. Secondly, if you choose to use that strategy, Brandon Lloyd can come up big. 3. Its hard to believe that a guy who was getting killed both in the media and by the fans just 3 weeks ago for being a fraud, is now very likely to amass 1000 receiving yards despite being the 3rd option most of the time. 4. With 4 turnovers, and what seemed to be a massive amount of penalties, all at the wrong time, it seemed, a lot of the Niner's success were gifts from us. Think about it. Over the last few years, the thought that the Pats defense would hold a team to just 216 passing yards was only a hopeful dream. Its hard to compute that that's what we did and it led to 41 points. 5. Given the lack of offense in the first half, combined with the horrible situations they were presented with, after that first drive, I thought the defense played pretty well. I know that's not what you would normally say after someone has scored 41 points against you, but I can't help it. The defense stopped the Niners 9 times in 14 3rd down attempts. 6. Dennard made 3 rookie mistakes in that first half alone that I saw and was going to comment on in detail had I not bailed on the team. Parcells (may he rot in hell), wisely said that if you have to start rookies, they are eventually going to cost you a game. By half time it looked like this was going to be the game for Dennard That being said, it really hurt the Pats when he got hurt. It weakened us in 2 spots, because Arrington keeps proving he doesn't belong on the outside, and conversely, not having him in the slot, weakened that area. I'm happy to hear that his injury doesn't look to be long term. It did when it happened. 7. Donte Hightower's stock is rising. Chandler Jones' is falling. For the first time I was seeing Hightower make some of the â€śsuddenâ€ťplays that showed up in his draft highlight reel, that had us so excited, and made us all feel that HE would be the rookie most likely to make the big first impression. And while I only ended up watching two thirds of the game, I can't remember any plays that Jones stood out on. Has he hit the rookie wall? Is his ankle still limiting his effectiveness? Whatever it is, he might still be playing decently, but he certainly isn't being the impactful player he was in the first half of the season. We are going to need him to get back to that level of play for the playoffs,.especially since it looks like we will have to win 2 road games to get to the superbowl. 8. I don't think that the Niner would want to play us again in the Superbowl, especially with Gronk on board. That 2nd half had to have been a rude awakening for them, ,and what looked to be a dominant defense 9. Can't say enough about our coaching staff. Not only did they keep those guys playing hard, they managed to make enough effective adjustments to allow the Pats to score 28 unanswered points on that great defense 10. What is even more impressive about that 28 point comeback is that, as far as I can gather, none of those scoring drives were defensive gimmes (I could be wrong on that since.....I chose to miss most of it ) 11. The bad news: the OL, and in particular Nate Solder, almost got Brady killed in the first half, and led to the most ineffective offense output of the year.....by far. The good news: the OL recovered enough so that they probably generated the most passing yards this season in just a half and led to 31 points in about a quarter and a half 12. I will remind people that contrary to common wisdom,. Steven Ridley only fumbled ONE time last night. That's not a good thing by any means, but by what you hear in the media he fumbled twice. Here is a clue. RB's fumble the ball. Don't forget that Ridley and BJGE now have the same number of fumbles this season. This team turns the ball over SO infrequently, we've become spoiled to this reality. If Ridley has a fumbling problem, then ALL RB's have fumbling problems. It happens folks. Do what you can to minimize it, but you can't stop it. It would be wrong to limit his snaps going forward. 13. SF has a very good team, and its easier to see why Harbaugh has gone to Kaepernick. He did a very good job on Sunday, but the Pats gave him a lot of help. It seemed like every nightmare scenario a fan could conger up, happened in the first 35 minutes of that ballgame. Fumbles, interceptions, bad penalties we did it all. Think about it. SF punted 5 times, and the Pats got at LEAST 3 holding calls on those punts, maybe 4. When has that ever happened. How many time did the Pats have to start drives inside their 10. So many self inflicted wounds 14. One very positive observation. The Niner were reportedly a very "physical" team. I think the Pats banged with them every step of the way. The Pats weren't out hit, and I think that bodes well for the future. 15. Hopes for the last 2 games. a. Wins of course b. Health c. 60 snaps for Gronk d. a resurgence of sorts for Jones e. watching Mallet get to play at least half 16. It is a pleasure to continue to watch the Jet be the running joke of the league. Never has a team that was still in playoff contention in the 15th week of the seen, been more debased and derided. KC and the Jags are bad teams, but they aren't subject to the kind of ridicule and scorn the Jets are getting NATIONWIDE.....and no franchise deserves it more. Talk about self inflicted wounds. The Jets are leading the league in them. So agan, mea culpa, mea culpa, maxima mea cupla (I may be Jewish, but I did learn something all those years I coached in the Catholic Conference). Sunday can't come soon enough.