John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports



There seems to be this notion that the much-maligned defense of the San Francisco 49ers (1-8) had some kind of breakthrough in Week 10 during their 23-20 loss to Arizona Cardinals. It appears that some were genuinely happy at "almost" winning a game in which the unit gave up 443 yards and 26 first downs.

"On the way to the buses, in Phoenix after the game, I stopped to talk to (49ers linebackers coach) Jason Tarver, who's a longtime coach for the 49ers on the defensive side, and we were batting this back and forth," said broadcaster Ted Robinson. "Again, the defensive coaches were pretty happy. Nobody's happy with the result, but the defensive performance and effort was 17 times beyond what it had been in the previous seven games, so that's good."

Yeah, that's great. Glad the coaches are feeling good. In reality, while there were strong performances by players like DL DeForest Bucker, the Niners probably should have lost by a lot more than three points. You see, San Francisco forced four turnovers, which is a bit of a fluky thing. It's not uncommon for good defenses to force opposing teams to make mistakes, but San Francisco doesn't have a good defense. It's not something that's sustainable, and giving up tons of yards is something we've seen this team do with regularity. One thing's for certain, the visiting New England Patriots (7-2) are going to move the football and those turnovers aren't going to happen. Wonder how happy the defensive staff will be after Week 11?

Recent History


If the league wasn't completely buying into QB Colin Kaepernick by the time the 49ers visited Gillette Stadium in Week 15 of 2012, they certainly were afterward. Making only his fifth career start, Kaepernick went into one of the toughest places to play in the NFL and threw four touchdown passes, leading his team to a 41-34 win. The Niners actually jumped out to a 31-3 advantage early in the third quarter, but the great QB Tom Brady would throw for 443 yards and lead his team all the way back. With the score tied at 31, Kaepernick hit WR Michael Crabtree on a 38-yard touchdown that put the 49ers ahead for good.


Players to Watch


While he still seems like a work in progress, you have to be happy with the way Kaepernick has played the past couple of weeks. In Arizona, a place where he threw for 67 yards and four interceptions last season, Kaepernick was the best player on offense and really kept his team in the game with clutch passes and timely runs. He finished with 210 yards passing, 55 rushing, and two total touchdowns. His performance was even more impressive when you consider he had no running game to work with, as RB Carlos Hyde and RB Dujuan Harris combined for 28 yards on 18 carries. Kaepernick will need to be on the top of his game if San Francisco is to have any chance in this one.

Even with TE Rob Gronkowski likely to miss the game with an injury, the Patriots will still be formidable on offense because of Brady. Even at 39-years old, the Bay Area native is having a remarkable season. He's completing 72.9 percent of this throws and has 12 touchdowns to only one interception. He'll be playing his first game against San Francisco in the Bay Area, which could be special for him since he grew up a fan of the 49ers. Brady may want to leave his mark in this game, which is a scary thought if you're pulling for red and gold.

Stats to Know


Considering it was supposed to be their strength on offense, you have to be very concerned about the San Francisco running game. On the surface, the numbers look okay, mainly because of the quarterbacks being factored in, but the running backs themselves haven't been very good. Hyde, who was expected to have a breakout year, is averaging 3.6 yards per carry. As a unit, the backs are averaging 3.48 yards per carry. The only runner over 4.0 yards is Harris, but he doesn't have a large sample size (26 carries). While the offensive line is also to blame here, running back is yet another position the 49ers need to upgrade this offseason.

Game Changing Factor


Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


I mentioned that Brady only has one interception this season, and it's actually the only one any New England quarterback has thrown in 281 pass attempts. In fact, the Patriots only have eight turnovers this year, which is tied for fourth best. Unlike the Cardinals, Brady and company will finish their drives and are averaging 32 points per contest in the five games with their future Hall of Fame quarterback under center. This spells bad news for the 49ers, who give up about 32 a game.

Matchup Information


Kickoff: Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 1:25 p.m. PT

Where: Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California

All-Time Matchup: 49ers lead series 8-4

Last Meeting: 12/16/12, 49ers win 41-34, at NE

Current Streak: Won 1

Betting: The Patriots are 13-point favorites

NFL Fan Picks: 80% pick the Patriots to win according to Yahoo! Sports

49ers Fan Picks: Within our Pick 'em Contest, 88% believe the Patriots will win

49ers Schedule: View full schedule

Patriots News: Patriots news at Problitz.com

Follow Game Online: NFL.com's Game Center

Discuss: Niner Talk forum

Follow Us: Facebook, Twitter, Google+

Television and Radio


The game will be televised on CBS (Check 506 Sports to see if it is local).

Play-By-Play: Greg Gumbel
Color Analyst: Trent Green
Sideline Reporter: Jamie Erdahl

KGO 810 AM and The Bone 107.7 FM (Other markets) will carry the radio broadcast with Ted Robinson doing the play-by-play and Tim Ryan as the color analyst. ESPN Deportes and KKSF 910 AM will carry the Spanish broadcast.

San Francisco 49ers Injuries


Out
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)

Questionable
CB Rashard Robinson (knee), WR Torrey Smith (back)

New England Patriots Injuries


Out
TE Rob Gronkowski (chest), WR Chris Hogan (back)

Questionable
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle), WR Julian Edelman (foot)

Game Averages (Rank)


Patriots 49ers
26.8 (6th)
Offense Pts
20.8 (22nd)
380.8 (9th)
Offense Yds
310.8 (29th)
268.3 (8th)
Offense Pass
191.2 (30th)
112.4 (13th)
Offense Rush
119.6 (7th)
18.1 (6th)
Defense Pts Allowed
31.4 (32nd)
361.4 (18th)
Defense Yds Allowed
429.7 (32nd)
260.4 (19th)
Defense Pass Allowed
249.2 (14th)
101.0 (14th)
Defense Rush Allowed
180.4 (32nd)

Individual Statistics


Team Leaders
Passing Comp Yds TD INT
Tom Brady, NE 72.9 1635 12 1
Colin Kaepernick, SF 53 938 5 2
Rushing Car Yds Avg TD
LeGarrette Blount, NE 182 678 3.7 12
Carlos Hyde, SF 122 443 3.6 6
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TD
Rob Gronkowski, NE 25 540 21.6 3
Jeremy Kerley, SF 40 424 10.6 3

Ticket Stats