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Antoine Bethea Has Three Career Interceptions Against Tom Brady

The football still sits in its case at Antoine Bethea's house.

There are others in his home, but this one in particular means the most.

The San Francisco 49ers safety got the ball in 2006 during his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts. A Week 9 road game in Foxboro against the New England Patriots provided the perfect setting for Bethea's first career interception.

Tom Brady and the Patriots were driving on the game's opening possession. On 1st-and-10 from the Colts 34-yard line, Brady tossed a deep ball down the left sideline intended for Doug Gabriel. Bethea picked it off and returned it 38 yards. The takeaway led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison.

"I'll always remember that," Bethea said leading up to his next bout against Brady. "It was special because it came against a top-caliber quarterback."

It turns out that wouldn't be the safety's only interception against the future Hall of Famer. Bethea has picked Brady three times and tallied 41 total tackles in seven career games against New England.

Bethea's eighth meeting with the Patriots will take place this Sunday. The Week 11 matchup provides the safety with another opportunity to go against one of the NFL's elite franchises. New England owns a 7-2 record on the season, and the team has gone 4-1 since Brady returned from his four-game suspension.

The Patriots offense ranks sixth in total points, and Brady has thrown 12 touchdowns in five games.

"It's going to be another great test for our defense and for our secondary," Bethea said. "As far as what I see, it's the same Tom Brady. He's getting the ball to his playmakers, knowing where the defense is going to be at and finding the weaknesses in the defense. We've definitely got to be on our Ps and Qs this week."

Part of the challenge of defending Brady is finding a way to get to him in the pocket. The quarterback is heralded for his pre-snap reads at the line of scrimmage and getting the ball out quick.

Bethea shared that one of the primary goals against New England is to disguise coverages in order to cloud Brady's reads.

"We definitely have to give him some different looks, pre-snap and post-snap," the safety said.

Preparing for New England is also difficult. Bill Belichick is well-known for creating unique gameplans each week, specific to the next opponent on the Patriots schedule. Film from one game could be completely irrelevant when trying to pick up on tendencies.

It's part of what has made Belichick, Brady and the Patriots a perennial Super Bowl contender for more than a decade now.

"As a competitor, you can hate them as much as you want, but at the end of the day, you have to respect them," Bethea said. "Year in and year out, they're one of the best teams in the league, regardless of who is out there at receiver or on the defensive side of the ball."

The 11-year veteran acknowledged that this season hasn't gone to plan, but the 49ers will still use Sunday as an opportunity to prove themselves against a premier opponent. A four-takeaway performance in last week's narrow defeat versus the Arizona Cardinals serves as a source of confidence for San Francisco's defense.

"We're taking positives from every game," Bethea said. "This past game, we saw a lot of good things that we did on the defensive side of the ball – getting takeaways and playing with more fire. If we can continue to do that, these last seven games we can do some good things."

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