The Teams: New England Patriots (2-1) At San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
The Terms: Regular Season Week 5
The Place: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
The Time: 4:15pm
The Channel: CBS
3 Burning Questions:
- How will the Patriots respond? It’s put up or shut up time for the Pats as they enter the most difficult part of their schedule. The loss to Miami and the bye week were supposed to be tune ups for their two game west coast road trip followed by a visit from Denver in a few weeks. Now it seems this game is much more important or the Patriots could be 2-4 before very long. The veterans must step up and I think they will. Offensively the Patriots haven’t found a rhythm all season and the defense? Well we all saw what can happen. Bill Belichick will have them ready to play against a Jekyll and Hyde 49ers team and I see the veterans on both sides of the ball having big games.
- Will the running game take pressure off Cassel? The Patriots missed Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan a great deal in the Miami game as much of the offensive burden fell on Cassel who still is building rapport with the first offense. You’ve seen in the space frequently my concerns about Maroney’s production but him on the field still keeps a defense honest because of his big play ability. Jordan ran very well against the Jets in Week 2 and both he and Maroney should be suited up today. The Pats do not need 100-150 yards on the ground, but a stable yards per carry average will take some pressure of Cassel – who also needs help from the defense to keep the game close, which brings me to the third question:
- Can the Pats defense stop an offense similar to the Dolphins? Think about it. No real wide receivers weapons, a quarterback who hasn’t proven to be in the elite class and a dynamic running back who can beat you on his own. It sounds a heck of a lot like the Miami Dolphins offense who torched the Patriots veteran defense two weeks ago. The Pats have to dominate in the front seven like they are accustomed to. The front three will clog the holes so the middle linebackers can tackle to Frank Gore before he speeds into the secondary. When the 49ers are in passing situations it’s vital Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel put some pressure on J.T. O’Sullivan to force him into mistakes. Chad Pennington completed 17 of 20 passes two weeks ago and if O’Sullivan has a similar completion rate, the Patriots defense are not doing their job. I think Belichick and defensive coordinator Dean Peas will throw some unique blitzing packages at them and force the ball into O’Sullivans hand. Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren should bounce back after their worst game as a threesome against the ‘Phins.
With the Chargers and Broncos on the horizon this really is an important game. The Patriots come together the best when faced with adversity and a two week trip to California after an embarrassing loss just might be the best medicine. The running game has plenty of options and I think they will get on track today. Cassel will finally start hooking up with Randy Moss and I see Wes Welker having a 10 or so catch day from the slot. The defense will start out slow I think but if they are close heading into the second quarter the confidence will grow and the play calling will become more aggressive. Blitzes and quarterback pressure are the key to today’s game. I think the Patriots will gut this one out simply because they have to.
Patriots 27, 49ers 24
Tags: Adalius Thomas, Bill Belichick, Dean Pees, Frank Gore, J.T. O'Sullivan, Lamont Jordan, Laurence Maroney, Matt Cassel, Mike Vrabel, Randy Moss, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker