There’s no place like home, and Tom Brady made sure that his first game ever against his hometown 49ers on the road went according to plan.
Though the Patriots led just 13-10 at the end of the third quarter, they made sure to save the best for last, beating the 49ers 30-17.
Brady, with enough friends, family, and fans watching to make San Francisco’s rain-soaked Levi’s Stadium feel like a home game, showcased his newfound elusiveness in the pocket and hit Danny Amendola for a five-yard touchdown that gave New England some breathing room to begin the fourth quarter. Two drives later, Brady hit rookie Malcolm Mitchell for a 56-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.
Brady, who won his 199th career game putting him one win behind Peyton Manning for first all-time, finished with 279 passing yards and four touchdowns. Running back LeGarrette Blount ran all over a historically bad 49ers rushing defense for 123 yards.
The Patriots will travel to play the Jets next Sunday.
No Gronk, no problem?
With Rob Gronkwoski on the field, the Patriots offense is on another level. But Gronkowski and Chris Hogan missed Sunday’s game, which meant others had to step up. Julian Edelman proved to be Brady’s favorite target, as Edelman hauled in eight of 17 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown. But there were two less familiar faces in on the action on Sunday. Dion Lewis made his return to the field for the first time this season after a second surgery on his knee and showed the same quickness from last season on his way to 49 all-purpose yards in limited action. And rookie Malcolm Mitchell, who came into the game with 95 receiving yards on the season, caught four balls for 98 yards including one 54-yard touchdown that showcased his straight-line speed. When it comes to drafting wide receivers, the Patriots usually swing and miss. It looks like they finally hit on one with Mitchell.
Still not sharp enough
The Patriots defense looked alive at times, but there’s still plenty the players must show in order to prove they can be depended on. Before the season began, the Patriots looked like a top five defense on paper. But they don’t play on paper. With Jamie Collins already shipped off to Cleveland, the team made another tweak to the game day roster by making defensive end Jabaal Sheard a healthy scratch. Sheard, who was a major part of the defense last season, has been a disappointment along with the rest of the pass rush. On Sunday, the defense sacked Colin Kaepernick five times, totaling a loss of 29 yards. Still, Kaepernick carved them up during a late second-quarter touchdown drive for 92 yards in eight plays that cut the Patriots lead to 13-10. He then marched them 75 yards over 12 plays for another touchdown in the fourth quarter. Patriots defense: making bad quarterbacks great again.
Clean up the mistakes
The 49ers committed 10 penalties for 68 yards on Sunday, but the Patriots had a few themselves. Up 10-3 in the second quarter, LeGarrette Blount rumbled out of the backfield 35 yards and into the end zone. The hurt was on in San Fran . . . except Nate Solder got caught holding and the touchdown was called back. Now 2nd-and-11 from the 49ers 45-yard line, Brady, faced with pressure, threw the ball away to avoid the sack . . . except it was ruled intentional grounding. That pushed the ball back 10 more yards and set the Pats up with a 3rd-and-21 from their own 45-yard line. They didn’t convert and were forced to punt – and the 49ers took the ball 92 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Patriots best defense is Tom Brady. The more their offense is on the field, the less time for their defense to give up points. Yes, they are asking a lot out of their offense right now. They can get away with those mistakes against the 49ers – but against playoff teams that won’t be so easy.