The heavy rain did not stop the Patriots from coming out of San Francisco with a convincing win.
The game wasn’t quite the blowout that many thought it would be, and that it probably should have been. However, the Patriots found themselves in the second half and began to look like the elite team that they are. They scored 30 points despite playing without Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan, and also managed to hold the 49ers to only 17 points, which isn’t a great number considering San Francisco’s lack of offensive talent, but is still below the league average.
Here are my quick thoughts from the game:
– Tom Brady and the Patriots offense started out strong, then struggled for the rest of the first half. Brady seemed to be forcing the ball to Julian Edelman, despite the 49ers having decent coverage on him. However, Brady turned it on in the second half, and began spreading the ball around. He started throwing to Martellus Bennett and Malcolm Mitchell, which opened up Edelman more, allowing the Patriots to move easily up and down the field. One of Brady’s more undervalued attributes is his ability to move in the pocket. He is not a mobile quarterback like Urssell Wilson or even Aaron Rodgers, but his awareness is uncanny and he knows how to move just a couple of steps backwards or forwards to keep a play alive for just a few more seconds so that he can find an open receiver. Brady finished 24/40 with 280 passing yards and four touchdowns in his first game back in his hometown.
– Malcolm Mitchell had a breakout game for himself. He hauled in four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. Some of his catches were crucial, including one on a 3rd and seven for the Patriots. He also caught the first touchdown of his career on an absolutely perfect throw from Brady. With Hogan out, this was a good game for Mitchell to increase his chemistry with Brady, and he seemed to do just that. While Brady struggled in the first half because of his reliance on Edelman, he began to trust Mitchell more and that paid off immensely. Mitchell also contributed in the run game with a number of key blocks on the outside that allowed LeGarrette Blount to break off big runs. He is looking like a solid starting wide receiver, which is a good sign for the Patriots going forward.
– Julian Edelman looked good in his homecoming as well. He had eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, as well as two runs for 12 yards. Edelman had a number of key catches, and his ability to break off tackles is always impressive. He will benefit from the return of Gronkowski as it will take some of the defensive focus off of him.
– The Patriots defensive line finally got pressure on a quarterback and it was inspiring. They came up with five sacks, and forced Kaepernick out of the pocket all game. While this sometimes burned them because of Kaepernick’s ability to run with the ball, it is a happy improvement and will benefit them even more when they play less mobile quarterbacks in the future.
-Matt Patricia finally listened to me and played more man coverage with a stacked box. It worked out better for the Patriots as they managed to dial up a lot of pressure. The downfall to man coverage is that it is hard for defensive backs to cover a receiver or tight end for more than a few seconds because 1) the offensive has the advantage of running forward 2) the defensive back has to take his eyes off of who he is covering to look back to the ball and make sure the quarterback isn’t running. When there is a mobile quarterback like Kaepernick who can give his receivers more time, they are bound to get open eventually which is what happened. However, the Patriots did manage to hold the 49ers to only 328 yards, which is an improvement on what they have been giving up over the last few weeks,
– Nate Solder had his worst game of the season. The offense could not seem to get anywhere when they ran it to his side. He also got called for holding on a LeGarrette Blount touchdown run that killed the Patriots momentum.
-Stephen Gostkowski. Yes I know it was raining. Yes I know that there were 11 missed extra points yesterday, the most in 50 years. That’s still not a good enough excuse for one of the best kickers of the last decade to have missed his third extra point on the year.
– Elandon Roberts did not have a good game against the 49ers. He looked slow on his feet, and seemed unable to cover anyone. He also did not create much pressure in the backfield. I’m willing to be optimistic and give him a pass because he’s still a rookie.
The In Between
– Josh McDaniels play calling was odd. I wanted to put him under the “bad” category, because we should have run the ball more (and more efficiently), especially in the rain against the worst run defense in the NFL. However, he put the ball in Tom Brady’s hands, which I can never really fault anyone for.
– Cyrus Jones didn’t fumble on any kick/punt returns, and made a number of smart decisions to fair catch the ball. However, the fact that I need to give him credit for simply doing his job is painful. Therefore, he falls in between.
The Patriots came away with a much-needed win to ease the hangover from their loss to Seattle. They will use this momentum going into New York next weekend to play the Jets.
Until next time- B$