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December 16, 2012
Kaepernick, 49ers up at the half, but lead could have been bigger


Colin Kaepernick has been sensational in the first half ... when the ball has ended up in his hands.

Making only the fifth start of his career, Kaepernick has thrown two touchdown passes and has outplayed veteran Tom Brady, who threw only his fifth interception on the season in the first quarter. But the 49ers' 17-3 lead would have been a lot larger but for a slough of 49ers' miscues, including three botched exchanges between Kaepernick and center Jonathan Goodwin in soaking wet Gillette Stadium.

One of them came on fourth and inches at the New England 25-yard line. The 49ers had opted to go for the first down instead of attempting a 43-yard David Akers field goal.

Missed opportunities like that one was the theme of the half for the 49ers, who thoroughly outplayed Brady and the Patriots and forced two turnovers but could not convert on three early trips deep inside New England territory.

The first came after a long interception return by Carlos Rogers, who ran under a long pass intended for Wes Welker. Rogers seemed to have a shot at the end zone, but Brady lowered his shoulder and tackled him at the Patriots 5-yard line. Two plays later, tight end Delanie Walker coughed up the ball upon being hit, and the Patriots recovered.

They drove to the New England 21-yard line later in the first quarter, but Akers missed a 39-yard field goal wide left. It was the Akers' 10th miss of the season, the second from within 40 yards. On the ensuing Patriots possession, linebacker NaVorro Bowman forced a fumble by running back Shane Vereen and Chris Culliver recovered at the Patriots 34. That drive stalled at the New England 25-yard line with the botched center-quarterback exchange.

Otherwise, Kaepernick has been on the mark, and despite making just his fifth start came out strong in a loud and charged New England crowd. He hit four of his first five passes - all them to either Michael Crabtree or Randy Moss - on the opening drive, including a 24-yard touchdown to Moss.

He later returned to Walker, connecting with the tight end on a 34-yard score. The half ended with a 15-play drive that Akers capped with a 20-yard field goal. Kaepernick is 8-15 at the half for 107 yards and a 115.8 passer rating. Brady is 10-19 for 76 yards a 40.7 rating.

Brady strung together a 16-yard drive at the end of the second quarter that went 62 yards. But he was sacked by Ray McDonald on third down deep in San Francisco territory, forcing a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

A lot of the 49ers' success has come with Kaepernick in the "pistol" - the 49ers call it the "Q" - formation in which Kaepernick lines up in the shotgun with a running back behind him. San Francisco has run 12 plays out of the Q in the first half.

There's been one significant injury for the 49ers. Left guard Mike Iupati, who's done an excellent job on Patriots lineman Vince Wilfork early in the game, went down with a shoulder injury on San Francisco's last drive. He was replaced by Leonard Davis. Iupati is questionable to return.

- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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