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For the first time since October 31 2017, Jimmy Garoppolo will return to New England, his original home in the NFL.

The former Patriot will return to Gillette Stadium as a member of the San Francisco 49ers (3-3) who look to win their second-straight game after a rough patch in Weeks 4 and 5.

Earlier in the week, 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan reminisced on his almost three years with Garoppolo, and the ups and downs they’ve experienced together:

“The more things you go through with a player, the more situations, the different types of years you go through with someone, the more you guys grow and the more you learn. I think our first year was weird. We just had six games together and he came to an 0-9 team. That year was just trying to learn each other and figure what things were out and figuring out how to get him to the field with knowing what to do. Then the next year we were all excited to go into it and he tore his ACL. So, almost felt like last year was our first year together. Coming off his injury and having that whole year together, where he played a hell of a year and got us all the way to the Super Bowl and now we’re here. So, it’s almost like we’ve been with each other for four seasons, but it almost feels like kind of just one, one full one. You always want more time with that. I think you get closer and you learn more about each other through all the experiences you go through and we’re still trying to go through that. This year is a different year and I’m excited.”

A second wave of injuries

Just when the 49ers were starting to get healthy, the injury bug bit once more.

On Sunday against the New England Patriots (2-3), the 49ers will be without their starting running back, and both of their starting safeties. All three of Raheem Mostert, Jaquiski Tartt, and Jimmie Ward have suffered injuries this past week.

Star left tackle Trent Williams suffered an ankle injury in that game but returned to practice on Thursday and Friday. Kyle Shanahan remains optimistic that he will play Sunday.

Mostert suffered a high ankle sprain, and will likely be placed on short-term IR, paving the way for Jerick McKinnon, Jamycal Hasty, and possibly Jeff Wilson Jr at the running back position.

In addition to Mostert, C Ben Garland suffered a calf injury and will be placed on short-term IR as well. The 49ers backup center is Hroniss Grasu, who will fill in for the time being.

Shanahan also provided an update on both CB Richard Sherman and DE Dee Ford, who will not be returning to the field soon.

Not your average Patriots team

Garoppolo will not be facing off against his former mentor, instead, he will face off against the newest Patriots QB Cam Newton. With Tom Brady departing for Tampa Bay, the Patriots made a franchise-altering move and will deploy a very different style QB against the 49ers this season.

Ever since his rookie season in 2011, Newton has been know as one of the game’s most elite mobile quarterbacks. Unfortunately for the 49ers, they have historically struggled against mobile quarterbacks. That will certainly be a challenge on Sunday.

49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh gave his scouting report on Newton:

“He looks like everyone’s Madden figure when you create a player on Madden. From the end zone copy, it looks like he’s supposed to have
his hand on the football while the centers should be taking the snap. He’s that big. So, he’s a freak athlete. He’s got an unbelievable arm. He’s got great presence in the pocket where he can feel and slide. He’s not looking to scramble. He stands in there tall and the issue with Cam is that you’ll bounce off him if you don’t bring everything you’ve got with you. Then he can find his way. He can go scramble and make you pay off schedule
football. So, they’ve also got some designer runs for him from a run game standpoint, which are challenging.”

This Patriots team is not exactly riding high right now after a bad loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 6. Without Brady, this is a very different Patriots team, and they’ve clearly had some struggles early on this season.

On offense, they have a nice RB tandem of James White and Damien Harris to pair with the ever-elusive Newton. In the passing game, they have the ageless wonder Julian Edelman as well as second-year WR N’Keal Harry who has yet to break out.

The Patriots, along with the 49ers rank towards the middle of the league in yards per game with 374.4 compared to the 49ers 368.5.

Through five games, the Patriots rank towards the very bottom in passing yardage with 207.2 yards per game compared to the 49ers 240.7.

The outlier though, is the Patriots rushing attack. They have averaged the second most yards per game on the ground in the NFL with 167.2 compared to the 49ers 127.8.

We may see a lot of scrambling from Newton on Sunday, and that could pair well with a passing game that targets the 49ers weakest part of the secondary, the safety position.

The Patriots defense is a shell of itself

Last season the Patriots defense, along with the 49ers, were two of the premiere, elite defenses in the NFL. Last season, Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore led the Patriots defense to a breakout first half before coming down to earth a bit in the second half of the season.

It’s a much different story in 2020. Many key defensive players opted out of the season due to Covid-19 concerns.

The Patriots defense still has a decent secondary, allowing just 219.8 passing yards per game compared to the 49ers 212.7.

Where they struggle though, is defending the run. The Patriots allow 119.2 yards per game against the run, and struggle against outside runs, something the 49ers excel at. We may see a lot of that from Shanahan and the 49ers offense on Sunday.

Shanahan will never overlook a Patriots team, especially one led by Head Coach Bill Belichick:

“They’ve always, going back forever, whenever you’ve watched a [New England Patriots head coach Bill] Belichick team, they’re going to have the same fronts. They have a number of fronts they can go to and mix them up. They have a number of coverages they can go to, but he has his philosophies that he believes in, for good reason, and you’re going to see that each year. He’s also going to adjust at every moment that one of those things aren’t going well. So, there’s nothing absolute at all with him. You know what he believes in, you know what he does because that’s what works. When it’s not working, he’s always going to have a plan to adjust. So, the game never stops. You’ve always got to keep going and hopefully, you have more points than them when time runs out.”

Notes

  • Bill Belichick always liked Jimmy Garoppolo when he was with the Patriots, but now he has his eyes on a different 49ers player.
  • After a very disappointing start to his career, former second-round draft pick Dante Pettis could be on his way out of San Francisco. The third-year WR has not caught a pass this season and hasn’t even suited up for a game in weeks.
  • The 49ers made their first trade ahead of the November 3 Trade Deadline. They acquired OLB Jordan Willis from the Jets for a late-round pick. A former third-round pick in 2017, Willis has only started two games in his career. A linebacker who can rush the QB, Willis will likely serve as a depth piece off the bench for the 49ers.
Taylor Wirth

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