49ers lead Patriots 17-3 at halftime

Associated Press
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes against the New England Patriots in the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Colin Kaepernick threw touchdown passes to Randy Moss and Delanie Walker, and the San Francisco 49ers led the New England Patriots 17-3 at halftime on a rainy Sunday night.

New England entered the game ranked first in the NFL in points scored and yards gained but struggled against a 49ers defense that has allowed the fewest points and second fewest yards in the league.

The Patriots were held to a 32-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in their lowest halftime output of the season. They had six points at intermission during a 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the second game of the season.

New England and San Francisco had been outstanding in hanging on to the ball, with the Patriots entering the game with the fewest giveaways in the NFL with 10 and the 49ers tied for second with 12. But in the wet conditions, the Patriots lost a fumble and an interception and the 49ers gave the ball up on a fumble.

The 49ers (9-3-1) would clinch a playoff berth with a victory. They lead the NFC West over the second-place Seattle Seahawks (9-5), who beat the Buffalo Bills 50-17 in Toronto earlier in the day.

The Patriots (10-3) have clinched the AFC East title and are going for home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. They trail the Houston Texans (12-2) for best record in the AFC.

New England beat Houston 42-14 last Monday night, but the Texans clinched the AFC South on Sunday with a 29-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Kaepernick, making his fifth start after replacing Alex Smith as San Francisco's starting quarterback, threw scoring passes of 24 yards to Moss on the 49ers' first series and 34 yards to Walker with 6:39 left in the second quarter.

Moss, who scored 23 touchdowns with the Patriots in 2007, filled in for starting wide receiver Mario Manningham, who missed his second game with a right shoulder injury. Moss got behind Alfonzo Dennard and made the touchdown catch in the left side of the end zone. The grab moved him into third place in NFL history with 15,219 yards receiving, passing Isaac Bruce's 15,208.

Kaepernick wasted no time moving the ball through the air. His first three plays all resulted in first downs — completions of 11 and 13 to Michael Crabtree and 12 yards to Moss. Frank Gore then ran for 3 yards and, after an incompletion, Kaepernick hit Moss for the TD.

The 49ers outgained the Patriots 249 yards to 113 in the first half. New England struggled on its first five series with three punts, an interception and a lost fumble before Gostkowski cut the lead to 7-3 with 8:31 left in the second quarter.

The 49ers needed just three plays — plus a 35-yard defensive pass interference call — to respond. After the penalty gave them a first down at the Patriots 45, Gore ran twice for 8 and 3 yards before Kaepernick hit Walker in the right side of the end zone with Dennard covering,

San Francisco added a 20-yard field goal by David Akers on the last play of the half.

The game was slowed by officiating confusion that led to several lengthy conferences, including a delay of about 10 minutes while deciding whether 49ers punt returner Ted Ginn Jr., muffed a second-quarter kick. Officials ruled he didn't touch the ball and the 49ers got possession.

In the first quarter, Tom Brady was hit twice by NFL sacks leader Aldon Smith while trying to pass, then was intercepted by Carlos Rogers when he overthrew Wes Welker. Rogers returned the interception 53 yards to the Patriots 5, where he was tackled by Brady.

But on the second play, Walker fumbled after a 1-yard catch and Aqib Talib recovered for the Patriots. They couldn't get a first down and punted.

After three plays, the 49ers set up to punt but faked as Dashon Goldson took the snap and ran 31 yards to the New England 28. Again, the 49ers failed to capitalize as Akers' 39-yard field goal went wide to the left with 2:14 left in the quarter.

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