After 89% of you said the San Francisco 49ers would beat the Rams at home, we get into the most challenging stretch of the schedule, and it starts with a road trip to face the New England Patriots. Back when the schedule was first released, this was the first loss I thought the Niners would have, and fans would act as the team hadn’t won’t a game all year for the following week.
Reason for: Big plays on offense
The Patriots are going to run man coverage for the majority of the game. That’s no secret and has been the case for the past three seasons. New England was a better, more stingy defense than the 49ers last year. With as much motion as Kyle Shanahan uses, there should be plenty of cutback lanes for the Niners’ rushing attack. When the defense is in man coverage, that should leave a player like Raheem Mostert 1-on-1 with a secondary player, and you’ll take those matchups every time.
In man coverage, if you miss a tackle, the offense is going to have an explosive play. With Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers should have an advantage once the ball is in their hands. I’d imagine Shanahan runs plenty of pick plays, and we see some shots down the field off play-action. The opportunities to make plays will be there as New England will rely on two rookie edge rushers to get after the passer.
I’m looking forward to watching this game more than any other game on the schedule—Shanahan versus Belichick. You won’t find a better chess match than that.
Reason against: Short-yardage offense and a defense that makes you play left-handed
For the better part of the last 15 years, minus the Randy Moss years, the Patriots have been a ball-control offense that moves the chains and doesn’t turn the ball over. Will that change under Cam Newton? We’ll see. Josh McDaniels remains one of the best offensive coordinators in the game, and Newton can do everything Brady can in McDaniels offense. Quick throws, play-action, and timing routes. I think Newton’s ability as a runner in short-yardage situations could hurt the 49ers. It’s 3rd & 2; now the Niners have to account for a 265-pound runner. We saw it with Lamar Jackson last season. Even with a sound defense, it’s a numbers game, and when the offense has an extra blocker, it’s tough to stop a quarterback that can run. If Newton is inaccurate on underneath throws, that could benefit San Francisco, but New England has defined reads in the passing game for its quarterbacks.
Whatever the two best things you do on offense, forget about them against the Patriots. They take away your Plan A and Plan B and make you play left-handed. In the secondary, New England has three cornerbacks that are great in man coverage, including the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore. This game could be the first time all season where we see the youth at wide receiver hurt the 49ers. Expect Shanahan to use motion, bunch formations, and pick routes to get his wideouts free in space.
This will be a game where leaving yards on the field as a running back, a drop, a missed throw, or a blown block comes back to haunt you.
Will the 49ers beat the Pats
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