49ers bully Patriots from start to finish as Garoppolo’s homecoming becomes about everyone else

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

If you like running the football, Sunday was a dream. If you don’t, you should probably find another team to invest your time into. From the moment Jim Nantz started talking about Jimmy Garoppolo’s long-awaited return to Foxborough, Massachusetts, Sunday’s contest — a 33-6 bludgeoning of the Patriots at the hands, mostly, of Jeff Wilson Jr. — was about everyone but him.

It was largely about Wilson, who, before suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter on his third touchdown run — he was ruled out in the fourth quarter — was genuinely unstoppable. Behind a dominant offensive line (in the run game, at least), and a Kyle Juszczyk who was back in those open acres of space in which he thrives as lead blocker, San Francisco ran it down New England’s throat.

There were throws involved, but little if anything about the efficiency of Sunday’s drubbing should point to Garoppolo as the source of credit. He airmailed one throw for a horrible interception and launched one at the end of the first half for a jump ball which Brandon Aiyuk had no opportunity to contest. There were a handful of solid throws, but far greater examples of impressive catches from Aiyuk, who finished with six receptions for 115 yards. He probably could have had a touchdown on a deep pass if Garoppolo’s throw allowed him to remain inbounds.

Garoppolo finished with 20-of-25 with 278 yards. He wasn’t stellar, and was punished for two of his bad throws (he can be counted on for those, but is usually, for no discernible reason, not punished), but his confidence in Aiyuk and Kittle resulted in a handful of key plays which prevented San Francisco from becoming too reliant on the run game. He didn’t prove a single thing in his return, but he was fine.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan made the recipe simple from the start, getting the ball to Wilson in those outside spaces and using Deebo Samuel in motion, or a straight-up tailback against a Patriots defense which is built largely upon great coverage and severely lacking in skilled linebackers. They tried to employ a 6-by-1 defense like they used effectively against the Los Angeles Rams in their last Super Bowl victory in 2018. It did not come close to working on Sunday.

Samuel, who had three rushes for seven yards and five receptions for 65 yards, left the game early in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return.

The other members of the backfield who deserve plaudits were JaMycal Hasty (nine carries, 56 yards and one reception for 16 yards) and Kyle Juszczyk, who looked like a bona fide fullback running at least three dives, including one for a touchdown. He had four carries for 18 yards and that TD, along with a diving reception on an 18-yard pass.

San Francisco ran the ball a total of 37 times (for 197 yards) for the second-straight week.

But as dominant as the run game was — and it just that — this 49ers defense, missing two starting safeties, was once again spectacular. They shut down the run game early and came up with a quadruplet of interceptions and at least a couple fumbles which didn’t result in turnovers. Tarvarius Moore, replacing Jimmie Ward, flew around the field and was both reliable and omnipresent. He looked capable of being a plug-and-play guy in any position on Saleh’s defense.

Cam Newton looked atrocious and incapable of running an offense by every stretch, and San Francisco took advantage at every juncture, with Jamar Taylor (two interceptions) the most frequent beneficiary.

Javon Kinlaw was robbed of his first career sack on at least two clear occasions (once on a hold by Joe Thuney and another by Cam Newton running for his life and throwing the ball away).

Azeez Al-Shaair also forced a fumble, and reinforced the strength of the depth of the 49ers’ linebacker corps. Fred Warner, as he has in just about every single game since the last stretch of last season looked like a Pro Bowl linebacker.

The main concern of this week is obviously Wilson, with the ankle injury, and Samuel. Tevin Coleman is not expected to return next week, and if Wilson is out, Austin Walter, a practice squad player, is likely to be promoted.




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