The New England Patriots will look to keep their undefeated road record intact this Sunday as they visit the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about the Niners:
To put it bluntly: They’re not very good
Coach Chip Kelly’s club has lost eight consecutive games since shutting out the Los Angeles Rams in its season opener, and it enters Week 11 ranked near the bottom of the NFL in most offensive and defensive categories. That includes tied for 22nd in points per game, 29th in yards per game, 30th in passing yards per game and dead last in rushing yards allowed per game, total yards allowed per game and points allowed per game.
Bill Belichick has great respect for Chip Kelly
The last time the Patriots played a Kelly-coached team, they suffered one of their more embarrassing defeats in recent memory, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 35-28 at home last season. New England coach Bill Belichick clearly is using that result as a motivational tool, as he has referenced it several times in his meetings with the media this week.
“He’s been on us about that game,” Patriots safety and captain Devin McCourty said Wednesday.
The Patriots also have reviewed film of San Francisco’s 41-34 win at Gillette Stadium in 2012, though quarterback Colin Kaepernick is one of the few holdovers from that NFC title-winning Niners squad.
They like to run the ball — a lot
Only four teams — including the Patriots — have more rushing attempts this season than the Niners’ 265, and 11 of their 21 touchdowns have come on the ground. Running back Carlos Hyde leads the team with 446 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, but Kaepernick has proven he still can make plays with his legs, too, averaging 7.1 yards per carry on 32 rushes since reclaiming the starting job in Week 6.
“They’ve run the ball a lot,” Belichick said. “They run the ball as much as any team in the league, so that sets up their play-action and some of the quarterback movement plays that (Kaepernick) is good at, as well as their third-down package.”
Kaepernick has looked better of late
The controversial QB’s first two starts after taking over for Blaine Gabbert were duds, but his last two were solid. He threw for 398 yards and posted a 102.3 passer rating against the New Orleans Saints in Week 9, then went 17 of 30 for 210 yards and did not throw an interception in Sunday’s last-second loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Kaepernick, who threw for one touchdown and ran for another against Arizona, also has lead the Niners in rushing in three of his four games this season.
“I mean we saw him firsthand (in 2012), so that was good,” Belichick said. “The offense is different, but he’s a very athletic player. He’s fast, led the team in rushing three of the last four weeks, so he’s very dangerous out of the pocket. But he’s a good, accurate passer, as well.”
Kaepernick has not been nearly as effective when pressured, however, and San Francisco’s receiving corps, which consists of Jeremy Kerley, Quinton Patton and Torrey Smith, won’t scare anybody. If the Patriots’ anemic pass rush finally is able to assert itself this weekend, the Niners could be in for a long day.
They’re massive underdogs
As of midday Wednesday, the Patriots were penciled in as 13-point road favorites. An opponent hasn’t been favored by that much on San Francisco’s home field since 2005, and the Niners have been 13-point home underdogs just twice before in their history, according to Pro Football Reference. (h/t SFGate.com)
Thumbnail photo via Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images