28 Oct Week 7 Recap – New England Patriots
Before the Rams game, I wrote that the biggest question was when the offensive line would start to gel. There were several gritty performances in that game, but the Patriots game saw a cohesive unit functioning at a very high level. NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger compared the line, including tight ends and fullback, to a chorus line at Radio City Music Hall. Against the Patriots, the 49ers put on a clinic in how to run-block, and Jeff Wilson Jr and JaMycal Hasty consistently got everything there was to get out of each run, and regularly got more yards than were blocked for. Wilson Jr finished the game with 120 total yards on 19 touches and three touchdowns before leaving the game with an injury, which will probably keep him out of the next two games.
Of course the O line weren’t the only ones contributing to the success of the run game; Juszczyk, Kittle, Dwelley, Deebo, Bourne and James were blocking their tails off! It was great to see Richie James with one hand pushing one defender, then reach past to attack a second. This is the level of effort that a win in the NFL demands. Along with a gameplan and strategy to react and adjust to the other team.
Kyle Shanahan called a master gameplan; running the ball, screens and short passes are Jimmy’s wheelhouse — not to mention it chews up clock and rips the heart out of a defence. As a team, the Niners are averaging 4.8 yards per rush. Mostert is at 5.9 YPA with 51 attempts! Undrafted rookie JaMycal Hasty has looked fantastic, totaling 5.2 YPA in 20 rushes, with his longest at 20 yards – so the YPA isn’t heavily skewed by a few 60 yarders. Heck, even the fullback Juice has a 5.1 YPA.
There were, of course, times when Jimmy G. was called on to convert a 3rd and long, and he looked efficient. There are always exceptions, and there was one high pass over the middle and the first interception which looked bad, possibly with the long pass to Aiyuk as a missed opportunity for a long TD pass (but Wilson scored on the next play). The second INT was right at the end of the half and shouldn’t cause any major concerns. Jimmy finished 20-25 for 277 yards, no TDs and 2 INTs. This was the epitome of a team win, and while the offence were doing their thing, the defence was equal to whatever coach Belichick could come up with.
Before I go on to praise the solid performance by the defence, allow me to say that Fred Warner is playing at a level that reminds fans of the Willis/Bowman years; sideline to sideline, consistently meeting rushers in their chosen gap, defending the pass better than any LB in the league even against WRs. His interception of Newton highlights his savvy and athletic ability.
The defensive line is obviously ravaged by injuries, but the next man up mentality along with great schemes and preparation, showed how dominant they could be. Kinlaw continues to impress, eating up regular double teams. Kevin Givens has been solid, chalking up a sack of Stidham late in the game. It’s been great getting to see players like Kentavious Street flying around, and often there aren’t stats that jump off the page, but he’s disrupting rushing and passing lanes and chasing the ball carrier. This is the kind of effort that limited Newton’s rushing to just 19 yards on 5 attempts. Even so, there wasn’t a great deal of pressure on Newton, who often appeared to have plenty of time in the pocket.
Dre Greenlaw continues to impress, logging Newton’s only sack and always finding himself where the action is. Without the two starting safeties, Tarvarius Moore and Marcel Harris dominated, showing once again the depth at key positions. Moseley, Verrett and Witherspoon were firing on all cylinders, and nickel back Jamar Taylor had a very impressive outing including 2 picks, providing peace of mind while K’Waun Williams gets healthy.
The game was truly over at halftime. The score was 23-3 and the Niners had racked up 301 yards to New England’s 59.
While Cam Newton and his offence looked lackluster and limp, it’s worth noting that this is the team that hung 36 points on the Raiders, and 30 on the Seahawks. The 49ers effectively neutralized Stephen Gilmore and the McCourty brothers.
So now at 4-3 approaching the halfway mark of the season (expect a mid season appraisal article next week), and we are 2 games and 2 wins into the gauntlet stretch of games. The 49ers lose another key weapon, this time on offence in Deebo Samuel. They’ll be expecting Brandon Aiyuk to continue his growth and take some of those Jet Sweeps, reverses and screen passes previously the domain of 2nd year Deebo.
To summarise, given the laundry list of players unavailable due to injury, the defence is playing to a very high level, the offence looked way more comfortable especially with the offensive line’s turnaround in just 2 weeks. If this continues, the Niners might make it to the bye week at .500 or even better. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, and although at the bottom of the division, the 49ers are only 2 games (in the L column) behind first place.
How do you see the next 3 games vs Seattle, Green Bay and New Orleans going? Tweet me @TaggSimon