Who could have seen this one coming?
The 49ers, who have been decimated by injuries throughout 2020, improved to 4-3 behind a dominant performance over Bill Belichick and Patriots, thumping New England Sunday, 33-6, and making a statement that they are very much in the playoff hunt in the competitive NFC.
It started with another dominant performance in the first half, in which San Francisco had the advantage in plays (40-16), yards, (301-59) and first downs (18-4). They hit the locker room up, 23-3 and never looked back.
Kyle Shanahan’s team dominated on the ground, rushing for 196 yards, while getting an efficient performance from Jimmy Garoppolo despite throwing a pair of first-half interceptions. Garoppolo finished completing 20 of 25 for 278 yards, 11.1 yards per attempt, a season-high, while all four of the team’s touchdowns came on the ground, including three from a surprise starter at running back, Jeff Wilson Jr.
Wilson finished with a career game, rushing for 112 yards on 17 attempts, though he exited the game in the third quarter following his third score when it appeared his left leg was rolled up on by a Patriots defender while he was getting tackled. Undrafted rookie JaMycal Hasty added 59 yards on nine while fullback Kyle Juszczyk scored his second rushing touchdown of the year.
Rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk had his first career 100-yard game, finishing with six catches, on seven targets, for 115 yards. Deebo Samuel, who left with a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, added eight touches for 62 yards.
Meanwhile, the defense, missing eight Week 1 starters, also had one of its best performances of the season, recording a season-high four interceptions and knocking Cam Newton out of the game in the fourth quarter after he completed just 9-of-15 for 98 yards with three interceptions.
Here’s our run down of the action in Foxborough, the worst home loss for Belichick with the Patriots and the first time New England has dropped three straight since 2002.
The 49ers got off to a fast start for the second straight week, going 75 yards on nine plays to score a touchdown on Wilson’s 3-yard run. Garoppolo completed all four of his throws for 59 yards, hitting receiver Deebo Samuel and Kittle twice apiece. Garoppolo also converted the team’s opening third down by scrambling with his legs and making a defender miss in the open field.
San Francisco’s defense, starting Tarvarius Moore and Marcell Harris at safety, forced a stop after allowing just one first down to Cam Newton and Co. Moore made a tackle of James White on a third-and-4 to force a punt.
The 49ers had another promising drive going as Brandon Aiyuk made a long reception to get a first down following the San Francisco’s first sack allowed, but then Kittle was flagged for holding that negated a third-down conversion on a Samuel run. Garoppolo threw an interception to Devin McCourty. It was Garoppolo’s third interception of the season.
San Francisco’s defense held and limited the Patriots to a 40-yard field goal on the opening play of the second quarter to make it 7-3.
Wilson opened the next drive with two runs for 22 yards, and Brandon Aiyuk got the offense down to the 20-yard line, but a Trent Williams holding penalty negated another run from Samuel and forced the 49ers to settle for a 41-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 9:00 remaining in the first half.
On the first play of New England’s next possession, Newton threw a terrible pass that was picked off by Fred Warner, who did an excellent job at preventing the ball from touching the ground, giving the ball back to San Francisco at the Patriots’ 38-yard line.
The 49ers then went 38 yards over five plays and made it a two-score game on fullback Kyle Juszczyk’s second touchdown of the season. They went ahead 16-3, as Robbie Gould’s extra point was tipped by a Patriots defender and hit off the upright.
The Patriots went three-and-out, giving the ball back to San Francisco while losing the first-down battle, 13-3.
San Francisco responded with another scoring drive, this one culminating in Wilson’s second score of the half when he busted through the left side of the defense for a 16-yard score.
The 49ers then got an interception from cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on a deep heave by Newton, but were unable to add additional points as Garoppolo was intercepted for a second time at the goal line on a last-second throw to Aiyuk as the first half expired.
The Patriots went no huddle coming out of halftime and took four plays to get to San Francisco’s 21-yard line. Then linebacker Dre Greenlaw got his first sack of the season, setting up a third-and-16 New England failed to convert when Newton tried scrambling and was brought down by rookie Javon Kinlaw after a short gain.
The Patriots settled for a 41-yard field goal to make it 23-6 five minutes into the second half.
Wilson eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the following drive, and the 49ers got into scoring range on a long, over-the-shoulder catch by Aiyuk for 35 yards on third-and-4. It gave Aiyuk 112 yards on five catches, beating his previous career high of 70 yards Week 3 against the Giants.
Wilson scored his third touchdown of the game on the next play but had his left ankle rolled up on as he scored and limped off the field as the score ballooned to 30-6. He was then seen getting carted off to the locker room.
Newton was picked off for a third time on the following possession when Julian Edelman, who had not been targeted to that point, batted a pass that was behind him into the air. The ball was hauled in by Jamar Taylor.
The game appeared in hand for San Francisco as the 49ers kicked another field goal to increase the lead to 33-6. But on Samuel’s third-down run before the kick, he grabbed his left knee and was tended to by trainers. The team ruled him out with a hamstring injury soon after.
Samuel had seven touches for 72 yards to that point.
Meanwhile, coach Bill Belichick saw enough from Newton and inserted backup Jarrett Stidham, who threw New England’s fourth interception of the game. It went to Taylor, for his second of the evening.
Chris Biderman, The Sacramento Bee