49ers vs. Patriots: 5 Key Defensive Matchups for San Francisco

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49ers vs. Patriots: 5 Key Defensive Matchups for San Francisco
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
This record-setting duo will pose big problems for San Francisco.

No. 2 NFL ranking or not, the San Francisco 49ers defense has the unenviable task of matching up with the New England Patriots’ unrivaled offense in Week 14.

New England has earned its league-leading standing by racking up 425.7 yards and 36.7 points per game and generally demoralizing any defense that stands in its way.

Equally jaw dropping, however, are the Patriots 27.6 first downs per game and rather absurd third-down conversion rate of 52 percent. These stats reveal the incredible quick-fire nature of their powerful offense.

And one that runs a play every 25 seconds—a league-best statistic highlighted on last week’s Monday Night Football telecast of the Patriots’ 42-point demolition of the Houston Texans’ sixth-ranked scoring defense.

(Please allow that initial mind-boggling number to soak in for a bit.)

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady love keeping defenses on the field and eliminating opportunities for substitutions.

San Francisco is at least fortunate that Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio rarely alternate personnel groupings because of the quality of their every-down players.

Even so, the 49ers defense must deal with the incredible pace at which Brady orchestrates this offense, as well as the particular matchup difficulties it brings to the gridiron.

On that note, let’s analyze the five key defensive matchups for San Francisco when it lines up against the Pats on their home turf.

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