FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Colin Kaepernick threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss and the San Francisco 49ers led the New England Patriots 7-0 after the first quarter on a rainy Sunday night.
The game matched the highest-scoring offense in the NFL in the Patriots against the league's stingiest defense in the 49ers.
Both teams had trouble hanging on to the ball. The 49ers fumbled three times, losing one. The Patriots lost a fumble and an interception in the first quarter.
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.
Moss, who scored 23 touchdowns with the Patriots in 2007, got behind Alfonzo Dennard and made the touchdown catch in the left side of the end zone on San Francisco's first series. The grab moved him into third place in NFL history with 15,219 yards receiving, passing Isaac Bruce's 15,208.
Tom Brady, meanwhile, 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, Delanie 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 David Akers' 39-yard field goal went wide to the left with 2:14 left in the quarter.
Kaepernick dropped two snaps, but the 49ers recovered both.
Stevan Ridley lost the ball for the Patriots on their first series and the 49ers recovered but the call was reversed on replay that showed Ridley was down before losing the ball.
Late in the quarter, Shane Vereen lost a fumble after catching a pass from Brady and Chris Culliver recovered at the New England 34-yard line.
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. Gore then ran for 3 yards and, after an incompletion, Kaepernick hit Moss for the TD.
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