The San Francisco 49ers look to gain more momentum Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots following a 24-16 win last Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
After a much needed win against a division rival, the 49ers head East to play who many consider the greatest coach of all time in Bill Belichick. Quarterback Cam Newton has played well in the games he has appeared in so far and, along with that, the Pats have defensive stars such as Stephon Gilmore, Devin and Jason McCourty and Brandon Copeland.
For the 49ers, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo returns to New England after being traded from the Pats to the 49ers in 2017 for a second-round pick. Furthermore, Fred Warner and the 49ers defense held the dynamic offense of Sean McVay to 16 points, with standout performer Jason Verrett leading the way.
The clash of Kyle Shanahan’s wizardry on offense against the defensive mastermind of Belichick will be one which not many football fans will want to miss.
Here are three keys to a 49ers win Sunday against the New England Patriots.
1. Get Garoppolo in rhythm early
Garoppolo played his best game of the season so far last Sunday, finishing with 23 of 33 completions for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Part of that success was due to the passing game plan Shanahan designed for Garoppolo, getting quick throws out to playmakers George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk early with screen passes and three-step drops. Belichick knows the ins and outs of his opposing quarterback and will do everything he can to put Garoppolo in tough situations he is not comfortable with.
It is up to Shanahan this week to come up with a game plan that is a step ahead of Belichick and get Garoppolo in rhythm quickly. By no means will that be an easy feat, but Shanahan has shown to have a few tricks up his sleeve.
In their last three matchups when Shanahan faced Belichick, Shanahan’s offense scored at least 28 points in each game. Although each game has ended in a defeat for Shanahan, he has never had this amount of weapons at his disposal, which will favor him greatly in another much needed win.
2. Stick to their identity
The 49ers identity of running the ball was evident last game against the Rams, as they dominated the time of possession and took the best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald out of the game, holding him to only two tackles.
Running back Raheem Mostert will be out Sunday and more after suffering a high ankle sprain last Sunday. Running back Tevin Coleman is also still injured and won’t return this week, and Jeff Wilson Jr. was limited in practice this week and it is unknown as to whether he will play Sunday.
The 49ers will lean on Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty for their run game. McKinnon last started against the Eagles and ended that game with 14 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown, adding on seven receptions for 43 yards. Although McKinnon and Hasty may not be as productive as Mostert, that does not mean they aren’t productive. It will be interesting to see how much Shanahan uses Hasty on Sunday, as he showed explosiveness in the snaps he played when Mostert left the game.
It will be important for the 49ers to stick to the running game for as long as they can, especially if the running game is working. When they do this and run the ball like last week, they are one of the toughest teams to stop in the NFL.
3. KEEP CAM NEWTON IN THE POCKET
This is perhaps the most important thing the 49ers must do in order to win Sunday. The 49ers have struggled against mobile quarterbacks such as Kyler Murray, Carson Wentz and Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. Newton’s athletic ability on the run combined with his big stature will provide the 49ers with a needed emphasis to contain Newton in the pocket.
If the 49ers can keep Newton in the pocket and make him beat the 49ers through the air, they will be in a great position to win this game. Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry are two wideouts both Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley are more than capable of covering, and the defensive line depth has the ability to get to Newton, potentially forcing him to panic and make difficult throws.
Whatever happens this week, 49ers fans will be on the edge of their seats Sunday afternoon. And if the 49ers win Sunday, the momentum will continue heading into the most important game of the season in Week 8 against the Seattle Seahawks.