Trying to Bounce Back

The New England Patriots went nearly two years between regular season losses. They've had two weeks to think about their last one.

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Looking to bounce back from a humbling defeat after their bye week, the Patriots visit the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Patriots -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 74% of bets for this game have been placed on Patriots -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

After losing 21-0 at Miami on Dec. 10, 2006, New England strung together an NFL-record 21 consecutive regular season victories - a run which included the first 16-0 season in league history in 2007 before a loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

Even after losing quarterback Tom Brady to a season-ending knee injury midway through the first quarter of their Week 1 game against Kansas City, the Patriots persevered behind inexperienced backup Matt Cassel, beating the Chiefs 17-10 and winning 19-10 at the New York Jets in Week 2.

That was the longest they could sustain the streak. Hosting a Dolphins team that had gone 1-20 since beating New England, the Patriots gave up 461 yards of offense, four rushing touchdowns and a passing TD to Ronnie Brown, and never seriously threatened the lightly regarded Dolphins in a 38-13 defeat Sept. 21.

"It was one of the ugliest defeats I've ever been a part of," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said after the effort, which had the New England fans booing their team off the field by halftime and leaving the game early. "The craziest thing about this loss is that not one thing beat us. ... We lost it as a team."

Making only his second start since high school, Cassel struggled against Miami, going 19-for-31 for 131 yards with one touchdown, one interception and three sacks.

Cassel seemed to take some encouragement from conversations he had with Brady after the loss.

"A lot of them just came down to 'look it happens and there are going to be times when you lose,'" Cassel said. "You just have to stay positive and know that you are going to come out and continue to work hard and get better."

Until Cassel does get better, Randy Moss may continue to be a minimal factor. The superstar wideout, who caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and a league-record 23 touchdowns in 2007 - his first season as a Patriot - caught six passes for 116 yards and a score in Week 1 but has just six receptions for 47 yards since.

Moss also found himself the subject of controversy this week, as Raiders owner Al Davis accused the Patriots (2-1) of tampering with the receiver before obtaining him in a 2007 draft day trade. On Wednesday, both Moss and Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined comment on the charges.

New England has 49 points through three games - a total it matched or exceeded in three individual games last season - but its confidence appears intact.

"Why would we doubt?" fullback Heath Evans said. "We've done something around here for a long, long time. We've been coached the same way. We play the same way. We try to respond the same way. So nothing's going to change.

"We're going to keep playing hard-nosed football, and, hopefully, we'll come out on the winning side most of the time."

The Patriots have never come out on top in San Francisco, where they are 0-4 all-time but haven't visited since a 28-3 loss in 1995. They have won two home games against the 49ers since, including 21-7 on Jan. 2, 2005 in the most recent meeting.

Trying to end a string of five consecutive losing seasons, the 49ers (2-2) totaled 64 points to win back-to-back games against Seattle and Detroit, but took a step back last Sunday in a 31-17 loss at New Orleans.

First-year starting quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan completed 18 of 36 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown, but also got intercepted twice in the end zone, got sacked six times and lost a fumble that led to a Saints touchdown. O'Sullivan has been sacked a league-high 19 times.

Possibly of even greater concern, the defense gave up a season-high 363 passing yards to New Orleans, including four plays of 33 yards or more.

"The explosive plays that occurred, they are inexcusable," said 49ers coach Mike Nolan, who does not plan to make changes to his defensive lineup. "There are some mental lapses, mental errors. It wasn't like somebody got whipped on an all-out blitz.

"I'm almost embarrassed to go to the positives. You ignore the positives sometimes when you lose."

Frank Gore continues to be a positive for San Francisco. The running back is averaging 4.9 yards per carry - significantly better than his 4.2 mark from 2007 - and last week's game was the first this season in which he didn't score a touchdown.

With a win this week, the 49ers would be above .500 at the latest point in a season since they finished 10-6 in 2002.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
NEW ENGLAND is 3-1 against the spread versus SAN FRANCISCO since 1992
SAN FRANCISCO is 2-2 straight up against NEW ENGLAND since 1992
3 of 4 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.
All games played at SAN FRANCISCO since 1992
SAN FRANCISCO is 1-0 against the spread versus NEW ENGLAND since 1992
SAN FRANCISCO is 1-0 straight up against NEW ENGLAND since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992

Key Player Injuries:

[S] Tank Williams IR. - Knee - 08/09/08
[C] Dan Connolly missed last game, %27?%27 - Knee - 09/21/08
[RB] Laurence Maroney missed last game, %27?%27. - Shoulder - 09/21/08
(!) [QB] Tom Brady IR - Knee - 09/07/08
[QB] Alex Smith IR - Shoulder - 09/07/08
[CB] Shawntae Spencer IR - Knee - 09/24/08
[OT] Jonas Jennings missed last game %27?%27 - Shoulder - 09/21/08

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