SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Ratings for the "Monday Night Football" broadcast were huge in at least one demographic. Most of the 49ers said that they tuned in to watch Tom Brady and the high-flying New England Patriots.
Well, they tuned in for a while, anyway.
"I didn't look too much once the score got up to 21-zip," defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said. "It's like PlayStation3. Once you get up 21-0, you put the sticks down."
It didn't take long to get the gist. The Patriots (10-3) can move the ball through the air, on the ground — and in a hurry. The 49ers (9-3-1) recognize what they will be up against this Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.
"It's like an early playoff game," running back Frank Gore said.
New England averages a league-best 36.3 points per game after their 42-14 demolition of a Houston Texans defense that was supposed to put up at a measure of resistance.
Instead, Brady threw four touchdown passes to boost his MVP case. For the season, the San Mateo native has 29 touchdown passes, 4 interceptions, 3,833 passing yards and a 104.2 rating.
So impressive was the Patriots' latest show that it knocked the g's right off the 49ers' lips.
"They're ballin,'" Gore said.
"Brady is slingin," defensive lineman Ray McDonald said.
The 49ers defense leads the NFL by holding opponents to 14.2 points per game. Then again, the Texans were supposed to present a challenge, too. New England put that notion to rest within minutes, scoring touchdowns on each of its three possessions. Houston entered the game averaging 29.3 points per game-but trailed by as much as 42-7.
That's why so many San Francisco players began reaching for the remote control.
"I turned it off," McDonald said. "I was hungry. I needed to eat."
McDonald said he watched just enough to recognize the cardiovascular challenge of the Patriots' up-tempo offense. He said New England snaps the ball, on average, every 25 seconds-fastest in the NFL.
Cornerback Tarell Brown said another point of emphasis would be ensuring that Brady's receivers don't get loose in the secondary. That includes shifty slot man Wes Welker.
Welker needs one more 10-catch game to break a tie with Jerry Rice (17) for the most career 10-catch games. Former 49ers receiver Brandon Lloyd is coming off his second two-touchdown game of the season.
But Brown said the names of the receivers hardly matter.
The New England juggernaut has now won at least 10 games in 10 consecutive seasons. The only team ever to do better is the 49ers, who racked-up double-digit victory totals 16 consecutive times (1983-98).
This marks the first time the two storied franchises have met since 2008, when the Patriots won 30-21 at Candlestick Park. Brady (knee) was sidelined for that season, so Matt Cassel ran the show.
In fact, Brady has faced the 49ers just once — on Jan. 2, 2005, when he went 22 of 30 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The 49ers placed Demarcus Dobbs on season-ending injured reserve after the special teams standout sustained a right knee injury on Sunday against Miami. Harbaugh had held out hope that Dobbs' knee would be OK, but a scheduled MRI exam Monday confirmed the worst.