The 49ers' passing strategy was clear in last week's win over the Los Angeles Rams. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo quickly delivered the ball to his skill players -- often at or behind the line of scrimmage -- and allowed them to do the rest.
Both wide receiver Deebo Samuel and George Kittle gained the vast majority of their yards after the catch in Week 6, thanks to coach Kyle Shanahan crafting a game plan designed to get Garoppolo in a rhythm. The 49ers won't have that luxury Sunday against the New England Patriots, according to NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Jeff Garcia.
"[Patriots coach Bill] Belichick's gonna load the box," Garcia explained in his "3-Step Drop" on NBCSportsBayArea.com. "He's gonna force you to throw the football. [He's also] not gonna give you those quick, easy completions. ... All that misdirection type of stuff, they're gonna try to limit and force Jimmy to attack down the field. Is Jimmy capable of doing that? Absolutely he is."
Garoppolo is going to have his hands full facing his former coach's defense for the first time. Coach Kyle Shanahan described the Patriots' pre-snap activity on defense as an "illusion of complexity," and New England has used it to its advantage this season.
The Patriots have allowed the ninth-fewest passing yards per game (219.8) despite generating the sixth-fewest sacks (eight) and allowing the fourth-most yards per attempt (8.1). New England also continues to force plenty of turnovers, intercepting opposing QBs six times.
This season, Garoppolo has thrown two interceptions on (what would be) a career-low 2.0 percent of his pass attempts, while averaging (what would be) a career-low 7.4 yards per attempt. The Patriots are going to invite him to take risks, relying on their playmakers in the secondary to capitalize.
Garcia said Garoppolo will still need to be able to make quick decisions as a result, just in a different way than he had to against the Rams.
"If you're gonna get three-deep coverage, if you're gonna get man on man outside or bracket on your inside guy in Kittle, you've gotta find your best matchup and you've gotta be accurate," Garcia, an 11-year NFL veteran, explained. "You've gotta be decisive, and your timing has to be excellent."