Patriots players were off on Tuesday as the team looks to put the loss to the Broncos behind them and with the hope that they can get back on a normal practice schedule this week. If all stays on track, the team will have their first practice in almost a week on Wednesday afternoon, something they desperately need to get their season back on track as they prepare to face a 49ers team that poses a number of challenges.
"They're well-coached, they're very good fundamentally, they have an explosive group of players and they put pressure on you across the board," said Bill Belichick of the 49ers.
The Pats have two focuses - improve on the areas that were deficient against the Broncos while trying to knock off a 49ers team that is coming off a bounce-back win against the Rams to even their record at 3-3. Neither is easy or assured, but with some normalcy the conditions will be a lot more favorable.
Helping things with an unfamiliar opponent is that the Patriots are well familiar with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has battled through an ankle injury this season.
"I think we all know Jimmy's a quality player and can do all the things that a good quarterback needs to do," said Belichick. "He led the 49ers to the NFC Championship last year. We saw a little bit of him at the end of the year last year in preparation for this game and of course the 2020 games that he's played in, so I don't think there's any question about his skill level and what he's been able to accomplish and what their team's been able to accomplish. We'll be ready for his best. I'm sure we'll get it."
Garoppolo has two electric young receivers in Deebo Samuel and rookie Brandon Aiyuk, but it's star tight end George Kittle who is the biggest weapon on Kyle Shanahan's offense.
"[Kittle]'s very good at everything - passing game, running game, run after catch, blocking, effort, big-play ability, you name it," said Belichick. "He pretty much excels in every area. I think when you look at complete tight ends, he certainly stacks up there to this point from what he's been able to do with just about anybody."
As for the Patriots offense, they've taken plenty of criticism in the wake of the loss to Denver. Josh McDaniels continues to search for ways to get the team's weapons involved, as low production from Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry is a concern in recent weeks.
"The best way to play offense is for everybody to contribute and to find ways for everybody to contribute," said Josh McDaniels. "That's certainly my job. I'm going to do the best I can to get [Edelman] involved, but also try to get production from all the skill positions on the field. Every offensive unit is always better when there's a lot of people that are contributing and you've got to stop a lot of things. Whether it's our receivers, our backs, our tight ends, the more guys that are producing and making plays, and creating first downs and opportunities to make bigger plays, the better off we're going to be."
With "separation" being a big buzz word these day, McDaniel expanded on everything that goes into a receiver getting open at the NFL level.
"There's a lot that goes into creating separation," said McDaniels. "The first thing is what the scheme is, what we're asking the players to do. There's release, there's the stem of the route, there's the top of the route and there's a finish of the play. So, the combination of all those things being done properly, combined with what we're actually doing.
"We work hard at that at practice every week. We try to do a good job of focusing in on each part of the route that allows you to gain separation. Again this league's a league about tight coverage, there's not gonna be a lot of big windows to throw the ball and catch the ball in."
McDaniels knows the Patriots will have their work cut out for them against San Francisco.
"The first thing that jumps off the tape is how hard they play," said McDaniels. "They've got great team speed they play with great effort. They're a very disruptive unit, their front's really active, get up the field, play in the one-gap system, try to create penetration and negative plays."
With the Patriots still taking it day-to-day, another day is in the books and now all eyes turn toward Wednesday with hope that things can finally get back to some kind of normal.
Patriots-49ers Stat Check