Win against New England would do wonders for 49ers

Jeff DickinsonCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2008

If this were October of 2007, then Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers would have been a mismatch of the greatest proportions.


New England had all-everything Tom Brady, a potent running game led by Laurence Maroney and the best receiver in the league in Randy Moss. San Francisco had Frank Gore, and that’s about it.


Thank goodness for the 49ers this year is different, on both sides of the fence. While the 49ers have a much more balanced offense behind offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Gore and quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan, the Patriots seem to be heading in the opposite direction.


Losing the best quarterback in the NFL will tend to do that to a team. At this time last year, the Patriots were marching to NFL perfection. This year, they’re mired in offensive mediocrity. New England “boasts” the NFL’s 28th-ranked offense, averaging only 271 total yards per game. Last season, Brady sometimes had 271 passing yards in a half.


Although the 49ers are 2-2 this season, they are tied for first place in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals. A win over New England will go a long way in continuing to show the young players that rebuilding doesn’t have to mean waiting until next year.


What do the 49ers need to do to send the Patriots back to Massachusetts with an “L?” For starters, O’Sullivan needs to protect the football. In San Francisco’s two victories this season, O’Sullivan has not had any turnovers; in the team’s two losses, he has had six turnovers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that if O’Sullivan doesn’t turn the ball over, the 49ers have a better chance to win.


Another thing the 49ers need to do against New England is stop the run and force rookie quarterback Matt Cassel to throw the football. Cassel is only averaging 149.3 passing yards per game for the Patriots. Cassel isn’t very likely to post a 300-yard passing game; he is more likely to manage the clock and look for short passes to help his team establish the run.


Moss is still one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL, but he has only caught 12 passes in three games and only has one touchdown. It will be in San Francisco’s best interest, though, to keep an eye or three on Moss throughout the game.


The 49ers have a legitimate shot at knocking off the Patriots and improving to 3-2 on the season. However, you can bet that the Bill Belichick-led Patriots won’t make it easy.