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Sunday, December 16, 2012
Quick-hit thoughts from third quarter

By Field Yates

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Entering the final quarter of play, the Patriots trail the 49ers 31-10. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter.

1. Ridley coughs up football again. The Patriots managed to stall the 49ers on their opening drive with an interception from defensive back Devin McCourty, and they were making progress on capitalizing on the mistake with an offensive drive that spanned into San Francisco territory. The drive was halted by a fumble from running back Stevan Ridley, his second in as many weeks. The 49ers returned the fumble all the way to the Patriots' three-yard line, and cashed in just a play later on a touchdown by Frank Gore.

2. Smith makes the pick. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady later looked for tight end Aaron Hernandez on a tear screen near the line of scrimmage, but Hernadnez bobbled the football and it was picked off by linebacker Aldon Smith. The play set the 49ers up on the Patriots' 27-yard line, and on the very next play Colin Kaepernick hit wide receiver Michael Crabtree for a touchdown.

3. Woodhead adds TD. The Patriots offense finally got it going with a touchdown drive that was capped off with a short rushing score by Danny Woodhead. After earlier fumbles by both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, Woodhead could be in line for more carries and playing time. Additionally, with the Patriots playing from behind, Woodhead gives them the best option in their hurry-up, spread offensive look.

4. Chung replaces Gregory. In a defensive personnel switch, Patrick Chung appears to have taken over for Steve Gregory at safety, at least temporarily. There wasn't any indication of an injury to Gregory, so this could be performance-related. Gregory has chipped in with two tackles and one pass defensed to this point in the game.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties in the third quarter: defensive end Chandler Jones (offsides), guard Logan Mankins (personal foul), team offense (illegal shift),