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49ers-Patriots: Three players who need to step up against New England

San Francisco travels to Foxboro for the first time since 2012.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

This game should be fun.

The San Francisco 49ers play the New England Patriots for the first time since good ol’ Chip Kelly days of 2016. The Niners are looking to build off their strong performance against the Los Angeles Rams last week as they try to get to 4-3 on the season.

There are some fun storylines going into this game; let’s dive into which three players to watch in Sunday’s matchup.

1) QB Jimmy Garoppolo

The former Patriots quarterback will play against his former team for the first time in his career. New England’s head coach Bill Belichick is the best in the business and will try to exploit Jimmy G’s weaknesses. Garoppolo was sharp in the first of the victory over Los Angeles, going 14-of-16 for 193 yards, 3 TDs, and a 156.5 rating. His second-half numbers dipped as Garoppolo went 9-of-17 for 75 yards, but this could be attributed to the 49ers’ run game slowing down without Raheem Mostert, who missed the last two quarters with an ankle injury. The Patriots have the third-best pressure rate in the NFL, so Garoppolo will have to make some plays with defenders in his face. With all of the injuries on defense, the Niners will only go as far as the offense takes them, which falls on Garoppolo.

2) JaMycal Hasty

Head coach Kyle Shanahan showed no reservations in rolling with the undrafted rookie late in the game against the Rams. Hasty had nine carries for 37 yards with Mostert sidelined in the second half and should get a lot more with Shanahan committed to re-establishing the run. Hasty ran decisively and showcased his agility throughout the final two drives as San Francisco was time to finish out the game. Veteran Jerick McKinnon filled in admirably without Mostert, but the run game looked much better with Hasty in the backfield last week. Hasty is faster than Jet and should get the lions share of carries against New England. Jeff Wilson Jr. will factor into the game plan, but I expect Hasty to get the first crack at being the lead-back until Mostert returns.

3) Hroniss Grasu

The job is Grasu’s to lose until either Weston Richburg or Ben Garland return from injury. Grasu only played seven snaps last week against Los Angeles, and Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 48.7 (0.0 in pass blocking, 51.4 run blocking). Grasu played every offensive snap in the Week 1 loss against the Arizona Cardinals and held up well in his first start for the Niners. PFF gave the center an 84.8 passing grade against Arizona, a game in which Grasu didn’t give up a single QB pressure. Grasu has been very disciplined as well this season. He hasn’t committed a single penalty in the 77 snaps he has played. Belichick will certainly test Grasu this weekend, and it will be interesting to see how he responds.