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Game Review: Patriots defeat 49ers, 30-21

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In what can only be described as a mediocre showing overall, the New England Patriots were able to pull this one off.  I guess a W is a W, but I was hoping to see a number of things fixed after having 2 weeks to do so.  That being said, I do believe Cassel looked far better in this game than against Miami.  He was scrambling at times (more on that later), but he seemed to be making good receiver choices (if you discount not seeing Moss uncovered in the end zone).  At any rate, let's get into it.

Offense

  • Cassel and Receivers - The bye week seems to have done Matt and the receiver corps some good.  The 66 yarder to Moss was a thing of beauty, something you'd see wonderboy throw.  Matt and the WRs went 22 for 32 with 2 interceptions throwing up 233 yards in the process - not bad.  Matt seems to be making better decisions and picking his receivers well.  That one bomb to Moss that turned into an interception was underthrown, but I'll give him that if it's all part of developing a long ball with The Real (Talented) #81.  Welker quietly puts up 8 for 73 while Gaffney does 3 for 35 very important grabs.
  • Running game - Only putting up 144 yards rushing, the running backs were having a tough time with 43 rushing plays and a paltry 3.3 yard average.  Maroney was a disappointment with 10 touches and only 26 yards while Sammy Morris managed 16 touches and 63 yards.  Kevin Faulk went 7 for 32, but had the only 2 TDs for the running backs.  He was "Mr. Big Play" when the Pats needed it.  Jordan balanced Morris' precision with steamroller efficiency.
  • Offensive Line - A better defense would've ground Cassel into the turf.  JHR has a better analysis in the postgame thread, but they have got to stop letting LBs and DBs into the backfield.  In addition, they're allowing defensed to jam the line and force RBs to work harder.  Maroney is bouncing off the line looking for holes; I can't blame that totally on him and gotta spread some of the demerits to the O line.

Defense

  • Speed Package - According to the Boston Globe's Mike Reiss, the Patriots are sometimes employing a "speed package" which utilizes 1 DL, 4 LBs and 6 DBs.  I'll have to keep my eye out for this one.
  • Third Down Conversions - Holding the 49ers to a 1 for 9 third down conversion efficiency, the defense was able to keep the Patriots' offense on the field for 40 minutes vs. the 49ers 20 minutes.  I always harp on this as a difference maker; In my mind, third down efficiency is the mark of a good offense and keeping low, the mark of a good defense.
  • Defensive Backs - Both Rodney Harrison and Brandon Meriweather managed 1 big interception apiece, but the DBs seemed perplexed by the 49ers WR, Isaac Bruce.  Bruce came up with 2 TDs.
  • Frank Gore - I said in my game preview that the Patriots had to contain Gore and they couldn't manage it, giving him 12 touches for 54 yards.  This is a D-line/linebacker issue.  They need to jam the line and plug up those holes or guys like Gore with chew them up.

Special Teams

  • Stephen Gostkowski continues to absolutely spank the ball on kickoffs, putting the ball in the endzone with 3 touchbacks.  His 35 and 40 yard field goals were money.
  • While G-Man is doing great, punter Chris Hanson continues to infuriate me.  A 25 yard out-of-bounder and a touchback are just not cool and situations like this.  His accuracy needs to improve or Belichick will be exercising more kickers.
  • Ellis Hobbs continues to show he's one of the most solid and dangerous return men in the game.  He may not be a top 5 CB, but let's see Asante Samuel average 28 yards per return with a long of 35.  Way to go Ellis.