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Silver linings: 49ers vs. Patriots

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The facts: The 49ers suffered breakdowns on both sides of the ball during a 30-21 defeat to New England at Candlestick Park in Week 5.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.

  • Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan provided leadership and competitiveness even though some of his decisions proved costly. A less mobile and less competitive quarterback might have taken multiple sacks given how much the Patriots pressured him.

  • Isaac Bruce scored two more touchdowns. He's on pace to finish the season with 45 receptions for 880 yards and 13 touchdowns. No 49ers receiver has caught that many touchdown passes in a season since Terrell Owens finished with 13 in 2002.

  • Linebacker Takeo Spikes continued to make important plays on defense. He had 14 tackles and an interception.

  • Linebacker Patrick Willis was fun to watch. He finished with 18 tackles and one sack. Fourteen of the tackles were unassisted.

  • Justin Smith had another sack. He has three in four games. Smith had two sacks in 16 games for Cincinnati last season.

  • Punter Andy Lee had a 46.2-yard net average with a long punt of 82 yards. The 49ers also got substantial returns from Nate Clements (13-yard punt return) and Allen Rossum (34-yard kickoff return).

  • Steve Young provided an error-free performance while having his jersey returned, making him the best quarterback on the field, as usual.

Life doesn't get much easier for the 49ers. The schedule appears tough. We might have additional chances to talk about silver linings, in other words.