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Monday, December 17, 2012
49ers led by 21 when Justin Smith went out

By Mike Sando


The San Francisco 49ers held a 31-10 lead over New England when Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith left the game with an elbow injury.

The score was 31-17 when Smith returned for one play. The Patriots pulled into a 31-31 tie before the 49ers won, 41-34.

It's impossible to know how the game would have gone with a healthy Smith available to the 49ers, but surely his presence would have helped (thanks to @Sportsbyben for asking).

The 49ers do not think Smith suffered a serious injury, coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Monday, but they also do not know how quickly he might return. Smith has played in 189 consecutive games. He has made 185 consecutive starts. Those are the longest active streaks for defensive linemen in the NFL.