49ers don’t flinch af­ter los­ing lead

New Eng­land ral­lies from 28-point hole only to fall on TD pass with 6:25 left.

Austin American-Statesman - - NFL - San Fran­cisco wide re­ceiver Randy Moss cel­e­brates his 24yard TD catch in the first quar­ter Sun­day. STEVE SENNE / AP

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — LaMichael James awaited the kick­off, de­ter­mined to re­gain the mo­men­tum for the 49ers af­ter they quickly lost all of a 28point lead.

“We need a boost,” he said. “That’s what I was think­ing. I was think­ing I got to take it to the house.”

He didn’t get all the way there, but close enough to set up the de­ci­sive touch­down — go­ing 62 yards be­fore Colin Kaeper­nick’s 38-yard pass to Michael Crab­tree with 6:25 left — that helped San Fran­cisco reach the play­offs with a 41-34 win over the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots on Sun­day night.

“We faced ad­ver­sity,” James said. “No­body flinched.”

Now the 49ers have at least a wild-card berth with a 10-3-1 record, know­ing a win against di­vi­sion ri­val Seat­tle (9-5) on Sun­day night clinches the NFC West ti­tle.

The Pa­tri­ots (10-4) al­ready had locked up first place in the AFC East with a chance to im­prove their chances for a firstround bye. They be­gan the day in sec­ond place in the race for the two byes but fell be­hind the Broncos (11-3). The Tex­ans (12-2) hold the top spot.

“We haven’t thought about that yet,” Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady said. “What’s in our con­trol is win­ning foot­ball games.”

Do­ing that on Sun­day night seemed al­most im­pos­si­ble af­ter the 49ers rolled to a 31-3 lead on Kaeper­nick’s 27-yard touch­down pass to Crab- tree five min­utes into the third quar­ter.

But with 25 min­utes left and Brady at quar­ter­back, the 49ers weren’t com­fort­able.

“Tom is a good quar­ter­back and we knew some ad­ver­sity was go­ing to come and they were go­ing to make plays sooner or later,” line­backer NaVorro Bow­man said.

They did — time af­ter time — un­til they had tied the score at 31 on Danny Wood­head’s sec­ond touch­down, a 1-yard run with 6:43 re­main­ing.

Wood­head be­gan the come­back with a 6-yard touch­down run, Brady scored on a 1-yard sneak on the first play of the fourth quar­ter and then threw a 5-yard touch­down pass to Aaron Her­nan­dez less than three min­utes later. And when Wood­head scored again, the Pa­tri­ots had their fourth touch­down in 14 min­utes, 16 sec­onds.

But two plays later — James’ kick­off re­turn and Crab­tree’s catch — the 49ers were back on top. And this time they stayed there.

David Ak­ers made it 41-31 with a 28-yard field goal with 1:56 to go, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 41-yarder for New Eng­land with 38 sec­onds re­main­ing and San Fran­cisco sealed the win when De­lanie Walker caught the on­side kick.

“We just spot­ted them 28 points,” Brady said. “We fought hard, but you can’t play poorly against a good team and ex­pect to win. We can’t miss plays that we have op­por­tu­ni­ties with.”

New Eng­land had won seven straight since los­ing 24-23 at Seat­tle on Oct. 14. The Pa­tri­ots had a streak snapped of 20 con­sec­u­tive home vic­to­ries in De­cem­ber, dat­ing to 2002.

Northamp­ton County (Pa.) District At­tor­ney John Mor­ganelli said an­abolic steroids were found in the room where Gar­rett Reid was stay­ing when he over­dosed on heroin Aug. 5 dur­ing Ea­gles train­ing camp.

Reid, the old­est son of Philadel­phia coach Andy Reid, was help­ing the team’s strength and con­di­tion­ing coach at the time of his death.

Mor­ganelli said there was no ev­i­dence that Reid was giv­ing the steroids to any Ea­gles play­ers. He said in­ves­ti­ga­tors could not de­ter­mine if the drugs were for Reid’s own use or for distri­bu­tion.

The pros­e­cu­tor said his in­ves­ti­ga­tion was fo­cused on the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing Reid’s death at age 29 and not steroids.

Bears: In­jured line­backer Brian Ur­lacher said of fans at Sol­dier Field dur­ing Sun­day loss to the Pack­ers: “The only team in our di­vi­sion that gets booed at home is us. It’s un­be­liev­able to me.”

Bills: Line­backer Arthur Moats will miss the fi­nal two games of the sea­son af­ter hurt­ing his an­kle in Sun­day’s loss.

Browns: Cleve­land waived de­fen­sive back Dim­itri Pat­ter­son, who signed a 3-year, $16 mil­lion deal in off­sea­son with $6 mil­lion guar­an­teed.

Fal­cons: At­lanta (122) needs one more win to se­cure home-field ad­van­tage through the NFC play­offs. At­lanta plays Satur­day at Detroit be­fore host­ing Tampa Bay.

Giants: If New York (8-6) wins its fi­nal two games, the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons will make the play­offs ei­ther as the NFC East cham­pion or a wild card. New York closes against Baltimore (9-5) and Philadel­phia (4-10).

Ravens: Baltimore made the post­sea­son late Sun­day when Pitts­burgh lost. But that’s no con­so­la­tion for the Ravens, who have lost three in a row for the first time since 2009. “We’re go­ing to fight like crazy to be­come the team we’re ca­pa­ble of be­com­ing,” coach John Har­baugh said. “We’re not that team yet.”

Red­skins: Line­backer Lon­don Fletcher is blam­ing se­cu­rity work­ers at Cleve­land Browns Sta­dium for a con­fronta­tion that left four of his rel­a­tives ar­rested and an aunt hos­pi­tal­ized. Fletcher said his large fam­ily con­tin­gent in Red­skins gear wit­ness­ing his first NFL game in his home­town was ha­rassed by fans, but he said that se­cu­rity that was sup­posed to dif­fuse the sit­u­a­tion in­stead be­came what he called “in­sti­ga­tors.” Fletcher said his rel­a­tives were still in cus­tody as of Mon­day af­ter­noon. A Cleve­land po­lice spokes­woman said six peo­ple were ar­rested on charges in­clud­ing as­sault on a po­lice of­fi­cer and ag­gra­vated ri­ot­ing.

■ Coach Mike Shana­han said he’s wait­ing for an OK from doc­tors be­fore al­low­ing Robert Grif­fin III to re­turn to game ac­tion. The QB sprained the lat­eral col­lat­eral lig­a­ment his right knee last week and missed Sun­day’s game.

■ Tackle Jor­dan Black was sus­pended with­out pay for four games for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s pol­icy on per­for­mance en­hanc­ing sub­stances.

Steel­ers: Run­ning back Rashard Men­den­hall was re­in­stated to the team. He was sus­pended for one game for con­duct detri­men­tal to the team.

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