James Toscano’s 3 things to watch for: Patriots face 49ers in San Fran – Metro US

James Toscano’s 3 things to watch for: Patriots face 49ers in San Fran

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Since Tom Brady has returned to the field, there’s been no debating that this Patriots offense is once again a very good one. But one debate that has been ongoing since the start of the regular season is just how good – or bad – this Patriots defense is.

Look, a defense can bend, but if it doesn’t break, it has to be considered a success. And that’s what some hung their argument on: the Patriots went into last weekend giving up an average of just 16.5 points per game, second lowest in the NFL. And then the Seahawks – a team with Super Bowl aspirations, unlike most of the Patriots’ opponents this season – came to town and put up 31 points on seven scoring drives. One of those seven scoring drives included a seven-play, 75-yard drive in 0:59 to give the Seahawks the lead going into halftime.

It’s never been clearer that the Patriots, who oh by the way traded away key members of the defense in Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, have problems. Their pass rush has been underwhelming, as they are tied for 25th in the NFL in sacks with 16.0. They have just five interceptions this season, too, 24th worst.

In many cases, the best teams find themselves at the top of the giveaway/takeaway category, meaning they win the turnover battle. Not this year for New England, as it has just a plus-one differential, tied for 13th. And that’s with the offense throwing just one interception. Kansas City leads the way at plus-15, for reference.

Luckily, the 1-8 49ers are next up for the Patriots . . . but is a win just fool’s gold?

Welcome home, Tom

Brady grew up about 20 miles south of San Francisco, and cheered on the Joe Montana-led 49ers as a child. But believe it or not, Brady has never played against his former favorite team back home. The one time the Patriots traveled to San Francisco with Brady on the team was 2008, when he was out with a torn ACL. That drought will end this Sunday – and there’s a good chance Brady will get his first win back home, too, with tons of friends and family looking on. And maybe he’ll throw a touchdown pass to fellow San Fran area native Julian Edelman.

Blount train rolls on?

LeGarrette Blount may be one of the league’s great, big mysteries. Blount somehow remains relatively under the radar, despite leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns right now with 12. In fact, Blount is two rushing touchdowns away from tying the Patriots rushing touchdown record set twice by Curtis Martin back in 1995 and 1996. Don’t be shocked if he does it this Sunday, as the 49ers own a historically bad rushing defense, allowing an average of 180.4 rushing yards per game. No, that’s not another “mannequin challenge” you’re watching, it’s just the Niners defense.

Containing Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick was all over the news to begin the season due to his kneeling during the National Anthem. He was the backup at the time, but after the team’s struggles, he’s back to being the starter. That isn’t to say the Niners aren’t still struggling. They’re 0-4 with Kap at QB. So what can the Patriots expect? A QB who has shown the ability to zip the ball down the field, but also one who can extend plays with his legs and get out and run. He has 228 rushing yards over his four games.

“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,” Bill Belichick said.