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Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN predicts big rushing game for Cam Newton, Patriots win over 49ers

Oct 23, 2020 at 9:42 AM--

It looks like ESPN's beat writers for the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots are betting on the latter to win on Sunday. Both Mike Reiss and Nick Wagoner picked the Patriots to end their losing streak, and for Kyle Shanahan's squad to fall under .500 again.

Wagoner, the NFL Nation writer for the 49ers, expects a big game on the ground from Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, who is going against a San Francisco defense that has struggled this season to contain athletic quarterbacks.

"New England quarterback Cam Newton will rush for 90-plus yards," predicts Wagoner. "Believe it or not, Newton has only four such games in his career and hasn't hit the 90-yard mark since 2017. But the 49ers have struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks, allowing 231 rushing yards to QBs so far this season, most in the NFL."

Wagoner picked the Patriots to win by four points while his colleague, Reiss, has New England by three. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) has the Patriots owning a 50.3 percent chance of knocking off the 49ers.

On Thursday, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was asked about Newton and his unit's difficulty this season defending against mobile quarterbacks.

"He looks like everyone's Madden figure when you create a player on Madden," Saleh responded. "… He's a freak athlete. He's got an unbelievable arm. He's got great presence in the pocket where he can feel and slide.

"He's not looking to scramble. He stands in there tall, and the issue with Cam is that you'll bounce off him if you don't bring everything you've got with you. Then he can find his way. He can go scramble and make you play off-schedule football."

That means the 49ers defense will have to play very disciplined football on Sunday if they hope not to get embarrassed by Newton and the Patriots.

"So, the challenge is obviously with all quarterbacks, you've got to keep them in the pocket and always have respect for the level of quarterback," added Saleh. "And then from there, when you have your opportunity to tackle them, just understand you've got to bring everything because just an arm tackle won't do it. You've got to bring your whole entire body with you."

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