Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick, Patriots ready for Jimmy Garoppolo’s best, ‘well-coached’ 49ers

Oct 21, 2020 at 8:54 AM--

Jimmy Garoppolo was once the heir apparent to Tom Brady in New England. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback will face his former squad on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be ready.

The Patriots head coach has a soft spot for his former quarterback, whom he hesitantly sent to Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers because he wanted Garoppolo to land with an organization he respects. Belichick reportedly had better trade offers from other teams but wanted to put his quarterback in a good situation.

In his first full season as a starter, Garoppolo led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance last season.

"I'm glad it's worked out for him in San Francisco," Belichick told 49ers reporters on Monday. "I hope it doesn't work on Sunday, but otherwise, I'm happy that he had the opportunity to play for a great coach and a great organization and play on a great team."

Belichick still sends Garoppolo an occasional text message. He tries to keep in touch. Of course, the Patriots coach was unwilling to discuss the details of those conversations.

On Tuesday, it was Patriots reporters' turn to ask Belichick about the reunion with Garoppolo.

"I think we all know Jimmy's a quality player and can do all the things that a good quarterback needs to do," said Belichick via the Boston Herald. "He led the 49ers to the NFC Championship last year. We saw a little bit of him at the end of the year last year in preparation for this game and, of course, the 2020 games that he's played in, so I don't think there's any question about his skill level and what he's been able to accomplish and what their team's been able to accomplish.

"We'll be ready for his best. I'm sure we'll get it. He does a lot of things well."

Garoppolo still has a lot of work to do if he hopes to change his critics' minds. A win on Sunday against his former squad could go a long way to accomplishing that.

It's not just Garoppolo upon whom Belichick will focus. And it's not just All-Pro tight end George Kittle. The Patriots have a history of trying to take away an opponent's best weapon. For San Francisco, though, it will be about limiting several weapons.

"They're well-coached, they're very good fundamentally, they have an explosive group of players, and they put pressure on you across the board," Belichick said via NESN. "Certainly, the receivers carrying the ball is something that you've got to defend, but there's a lot of other things you've got to defend, too. So that's the whole problem with San Francisco, is it's not stopping one guy or one play or one player.

"It's about being able to play good team defense, and everybody's got to hold up and do their job, and that's challenging at all the positions – quarterback, tight end, running back, wide receiver and a good offensive line, and as I said, very well-coached. You can see why they won the NFC last year. Offensively, they've got a strong group."

The 49ers will be down two running backs with Raheem Mostert sidelined for a while with a high-ankle sprain, and Tevin Coleman not expected to return just yet. That doesn't mean Shanahan can't dial up a potent rushing attack with the versatile weapons he has at his disposal.

Said Belichick: "They get everybody involved in the running game. They hand it to tight ends, receivers, backs. They run multiple personnel groupings with the fullback, with no fullback, with three receivers, two receivers. So, they give you a lot of different looks."

Garoppolo learned a lot during his time in New England. One of the things he learned was how to tune out the outside noise. That has been a benefit during the quarterback's time with San Francisco. Many have been critical of him despite his win-loss record as a starter.

"The time in New England, the good thing that it taught me was just how critical everyone was of that organization," Garoppolo told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Just, when you win that consistently, people are always looking to bring you down in some way and try to take a shot at you in one way or another. Just, when you're there, they're all about ignoring the noise.

"We're going through a bit of that with the 49ers this year, and we went through a little bit of it last year too. When you're in a tough spot like that, that usually means a good thing because it means you're winning and being successful, and you know people are seeing that."

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