With injuries stacking up for the 49ers ahead of their matchup with the favored New England Patriots, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan looked poised to scheme new ways for his team to win, upsetting the Patriots and Bill Belichick at Gillette Stadium.
The San Francisco 49ers came out firing Sunday afternoon against the Patriots and never looked back, driving 75 yards down field in 9 plays on their first drive of the game, culminating in a three yard TD run by RB Jeff Wilson Jr.
The 49ers' run game was monstrous Sunday, rushing for 197 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries. Wilson Jr. tallied a career-high 112 yards and career-high three TDs before being forced out of the game early with a high ankle sprain. The 49ers are hopeful that it is not serious, but will know more after the running back receives an MRI Monday. Wilson Jr.’s three rushing TDs are the most by a 49ers RB on the road since RB Roger Craig registered three rushing TDs in 1988.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo and WR Brandon Aiyuk linked up for 116 yards on six receptions Sunday, Aiyuk’s first career 100 yard receiving game. Garoppolo was 20/25 throwing for 227 yards with two picks and no touchdowns on the day.
“I think [Aiyuk] gets better each week,” Shanahan said of his rookie wide receiver in his post game presser. “The number of times we went to him, I thought he did a good job. I love how hard he ran with the ball, how much he’s competing in the run game. We’re putting some pressure on him and he’s taken it and tried to get better each week at it.”
The 49ers accumulated 467 yards (197 rushing; 270 passing), the most in any game this season, with a stout defense that allowed just 59 net yards in the first half.
The Niners entered the game with some amount of trepidation and a healthy respect for new Patriots QB Cam Newton. Newton’s ability to make plays on the ground with his feet combined with the Niners mighty struggles against mobile quarterbacks in recent seasons was something the Niners were worried about leading up to the game. However, Cam Newton looked much more like the QB released by the Panthers at the end of last season as opposed to the QB that won the MVP for them.
The Pats dug themselves a hole early and were forced to try and throw their way out. Newton was hot garbage on the day, throwing three picks and rushing for 19 yards on five carries before being pulled in the second half for backup QB Jarrett Stidham, who tallied another interception himself.
49ers LB Fred Warner led the team with seven tackles and one interception. CB Emmanuel Mosely picked off Newton just before halftime and returned it 51 yards. 49ers LB Dre Greenlaw and DL Kevin Givens both sacked Newton once each.
While Shanahan is known across the league for his unique play-calling and superior ability to get certain guys open, much needs to be said regarding his ability to get the best from players that previously could not find a way to crack an NFL roster.
The 49ers promoted CB Jamar Taylor from the practice squad earlier in October as injuries continued to mount in the 49ers secondary, and Taylor has proven to be a good fit in the system, recording two interceptions Sunday.
“Jamar Taylor, who wasn’t here a few weeks ago, was one of the tough guys to not keep a hold of ‘cause he had a hell of a camp with us,” Shanahan said. “We told him he’d probably be back when we ended up having to let him go. He did get his opportunity, and since he’s come in he’s played unbelievable, for him to have two picks today I thought it was huge”.
This ability to get more from less will help keep the 49ers relevant this year, and will be something to help substantiate Shanahan’s resume for coach of the year.
Bill Belichick, largely regarded as one of the premier coaches in NFL history, took a back seat to Coach Shanahan Sunday and seemed bereft of any response to the 49ers dominance between the lines.
“Any time you can play against a team coached by [Belichick] it means a lot, but it wasn’t that tough from my perspective the way our guys ran the ball and just how hard they played,” Shanahan told reporters. “It was a pretty easy game for me to just sit back and watch our guys.”
Coach Shanahan, who is on contract with the 49ers through 2025, gave most of the credit for the win to his players, saying, “I was very impressed with the character of our guys individually, which adds up collectively. Those guys play like it’s their last play every down. When you can do that for an entire game and you play smart and don’t turn it over, usually good things happen.”
The 49ers were able to rest RB Jerick McKinnon and only play him on 3rd downs Sunday, as keeping their RB core healthy is a new priority, with Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman on IR, and Jeff Wilson Jr. likely headed there later today.
With so many backs out, expect to see an increase in usage of FB Kyle Juszczyk, who carried the ball for a career-high four times Sunday, scoring one TD, his second of the season, and helping lead the 49ers run block and pass protection.
“Kyle is the best fullback in the league,” Shanahan said about Juszczyk. ”Kyle’s been huge for our team since he’s been here. He’s one of the best leaders we have on the team, one of the best players.”
Sunday was National Tight End Day, and TE George Kittle finished his 50th career game with five receptions for 55 yards. Kittle's 3,380 receiving yards through his first 50 career NFL games are the third-most by a TE in NFL history, behind just Kevin Winslow and Mike Ditka.
With new additions to the injury pool in WR Richie James (ankle), Deebo Samuel (hamstring), and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle), the 49ers will have their hands full next week in Seattle against MVP candidate Russel Wilson and the Seahawks. With the trade deadline approaching on November 3rd, look for the 49ers to make some roster moves in order to sustain their current momentum.