The reunion ended in a rout.
The New England Patriots fell to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 33-6 Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium, falling to 2-4 on the regular season in the process.
Here’s a glance through what went into it.
Return of the 2014 second-rounder out of Eastern Illinois
It had been 1,090 days since the organization that drafted Jimmy Garoppolo traded him away. And in his October return to Foxborough, San Francisco’s starting quarterback would go 20-of-25 passing for 278 yards with a pair of interceptions.
Garoppolo completed each of his first seven throws for 93 yards before being picked on a sailing one by Patriots safety and captain Devin McCourty. Cornerback J.C. Jackson would also collect a turnover as Garoppolo swung for the home run prior to halftime. But there’d been enough singles, doubles and triples for a San Francisco offense that eclipsed 300 yards by then.
Garoppolo was sacked once courtesy of Patriots All-Decade defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. Yet his side did not bring on the punt unit until 57 minutes were in the books.
Attrition continues for New England’s offensive line
David Andrews would be back in the middle of things for the Patriots. But the veteran center, activated from injured reserve after missing three games due to surgery on his fractured snapping thumb, had a change to his left side. And more than one.
Franchised-tagged guard Joe Thuney would be announced as questionable to return because of an ankle injury on Sunday. That required a reshuffling for an offensive line that began the afternoon with rookie Mike Onwenu starting at right tackle in the absence of Jermaine Eluemunor.
Onwenu moved to left guard while fellow sixth-rounder Justin Herron filed on at right tackle. But Herron went to the blue medical tent and then the locker room in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury of his own. As a byproduct, Onwenu went back to right tackle while Hjalte Froholdt checked in to take his previous spot.
Patriots meet Kittle
The Patriots hadn’t faced George Kittle before. And head coach Bill Belichick made his reverence for the 49ers’ do-it-all tight end known, much like he had for Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs.
“He does everything well,” Belichick told the Bay Area media on a video conference leading up to Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. ET encounter. I’d put him right at the top of the league there, period. His ability to run, catch, get open, after the catch, block — he does everything at a high level. He’s as good as anybody that I’ve coached or as good as anybody that we’ve played against.”
Kittle stood with 30 receptions for 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns through his first four games of the campaign. He went on to secure a handful for 56 yards against a New England defense that opened in base personnel. The first-team All-Pro out of Iowa lined up in the shadows of cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones and met bracket coverage from the safety level.
Newton’s response falls flat
In the hours after falling at home to the Denver Broncos, whose 18 points came on six field goals, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton was pointing thumbs and not fingers.
Against the 49ers, that gave way to a 4-of-8 stat line for 30 yards through the air by halftime. It was a continuation for Newton, who looked hesitant and threw errant. He would be intercepted early in the second quarter by linebacker Fred Warner on a crosser intended for wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who stepped on as N’Keal Harry was downgraded to out with a head injury. A second interception followed minutes later on a desperation heave down the pike for Meyers. Defensive back Emmanuel Moseley fielded it and went the other way. And a third came in the third quarter via a tipped ball that San Francisco’s Jamar Taylor came down with.
The 49ers had ruled out starting linebacker Kwon Alexander as well as top safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt on the final injury report. But the unit was on the field for under 22 minutes. Newton finished 9-of-15 for 98 yards and the trio of picks before backup QB Jarrett Stidham replaced him for the fourth quarter.
Keene in, Asiasi out at tight end
Dalton Keene made his NFL debut as Devin Asiasi landed among New England’s inactives 90 minutes before kickoff. And the Virginia Tech product, drafted 10 slots after UCLA’s Asiasi in the third round, saw the field as a lead blocker on kickoff returns while spelling in on offense.
Asiasi hadn’t been targeted through five games. But Keene would be against San Francisco.
His first career catch picked up eight yards in the third quarter as the accompaniment to starting tight end Ryan Izzo, who previously accounted for each of the league-low six by the position on the year.
No answers to a Mostert-less San Francisco backfield
On the eve of Week 7, the 49ers placed starting running back Raheem Mostert on injured reserve due to a high-ankle sprain that sidelined him throughout the week’s worth of practices.
Mostert had averaged 5.9 yards per rushing attempt and exceeded max speeds of 21, 22 and 23 mph with the football in his hands this season for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s backfield, according to Next Gen Stats. And in turn, with Tevin Coleman also on IR, San Francisco traveled to New England with Jeff Wilson Jr., Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty on the depth chart.
Wilson took the lead role and barreled into the end zone for a touchdown to begin the first quarter. The Patriots worked back to the field with a run stuff by called-up defensive lineman Nick Thurman on the next series. But Wilson turned one chain-mover into another before halftime hit, and tackles became missed tackles en route to another TD. He’d add a third in the third quarter before being carted into the tunnel with an ankle injury. There was help from Hasty, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, as well as a scoring plunge from fullback Kyle Juszczyk. San Francisco manufactured 197 rushing yards as an offense on 34 attempts by game’s end.