Top 5 storylines to watch in Patriots-49ers Week 11 matchup
Five to watch
Perhaps, weather will be the great equalizer on Sunday when the 49ers face the New England Patriots at Levi’s Stadium. With a 50-percent chance of rain forecasted for kickoff, the 49ers will need a lot of fortune to fall from the heavens to remain competitive against Patriots, who are coming off a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers enter the game on an eight-game losing streak. With a loss to New England, the 49ers would match the longest losing streak in club history, which was set in 1978 under coaches Pete McCulley and Fred O’Connor. Yep, Chip Kelly's first season with the 49ers is not exactly going as planned.
Here are five worth watching on Sunday:
5. Eddie DeBartolo
Because of the current sorry state of the 49ers, there figure to be an inordinate number of Patriots fans in the seats of Levi’s Stadium. About the only motivation for followers of the 49ers to keep their tickets is to applaud the accomplishments of former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo.
It’s alumni weekend for the 49ers, and DeBartolo arrived in town to take part in the festivities. On Sunday, he will receive his “ring of excellence” for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There should be plenty of star power on hand to pay homage to "Mr. D" from the 49ers’ five Super Bowl-winning teams of the 1980s and ‘90s.
4. LaGarrette Blount
Did the 49ers really solve their issues in the run game last week against Arizona’s David Johnson? We shall find out on Sunday when 250-pound Blount lines up against the league’s worst defense. The 49ers gave up 100-yard rushing games to seven consecutive opponents before holding Johnson to 55 yards last week.
Blount is a particular force in short-yardage situations. He leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey is the key for the 49ers. If he can hold the point of attack and force double-teams that allows the linebackers to roam free and have the opportunities to make clean tackles.
3. Phil Dawson
In this, Dawson’s 18th season, he is on the verge of hitting another milestone. His next field goal will be No. 400 of his career. Only nine previous kickers in NFL history have topped 400 field goals, including the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowki earlier this season.
Throughout his career, Dawson has been accurate on 84.7-percent of his field-goal attempts. This season, he has made 13 of his 14 tries, missing only from 53 yards. If he keeps this up, Dawson could become the first back-to-back winner of the Bill Walsh Award for the team’s MVP. The honor was established in 2004.
2. Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick wanted out. The 49ers wanted to absolve themselves of any future financial risks. So, shortly before he made his first start of the season, the sides worked out a restructured contract in which Kaepernick becomes free to void the final years of his contract after this season. So what happens now if Kaepernick plays well in the final seven weeks and coach Chip Kelly returns and decides he wants Kaepernick on his team?
Before we get to that scenario, Kaepernick must play well and show that his career can be resurrected. He played his best game of the season last week against Arizona's top-ranked defense. The Patriots own the league's No. 18 defense, so he could have some opportunities to build on what he did last week. On a cold, rainy night in Foxboro in 2012, Kaepernick threw for 221 yards and four TDs in a victory over New England in his only previous game against Bill Belichick’s crew.
1. Tom Brady
This is his 17th season in the NFL, and this is the first time the San Mateo native has ever played a road game against the team for which he and his family grew up rooting for. Brady said this week he arranged for more tickets for family and friends than any game throughout his career.
Brady is one of the all-time greats, and he is playing at an all-time great level since coming back from a four-game suspension for his involvement in the ball-deflating controversy. In five starts, Brady has completed 72.9 percent of his passes, averaged 9.8 yards per pass attempt and has a passer rating of 125.5. He is on pace to set single-season career highs in each of those statistics. He will be extra-motivated on Sunday, knowing this could be the only time he ever faces 49ers in the Bay Area.