The New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers will play each other for the first time in eight years in Foxborough.
This is also the first time that the Patriots will be playing against Garoppolo after they selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft before later trading him to the 49ers in 2017.
The Patriots and the 49ers have played each other 13 times since 1971, but in the Bill Belichick coaching era in New England, the Patriots only have a 1-3 overall record against the 49ers.
The two teams last saw each other in 2016 when the Patriots traveled to San Francisco and earned Belichick’s first victory over the 49ers. But the last time the 49ers traveled to New England was in 2012 when Colin Kaepernick threw four touchdown passes en route to defeating the Patriots 41-34.
Fast forwarding four years to 2020, both teams have a different makeup now and also employ two starting quarterbacks that were hand-selected by Belichick: Jarrett Stidham (2019, fourth round), who is presumably Tom Brady’s successor, and Garoppolo (2014, second round), who was originally intended to have that job.
Although Stidham is unproven and inexperienced in leading a team through the trials and tribulations that is an NFL season, the Patriots are still invested in him and view him as the best option for the team moving forward this season.
Here’s what Belichick himself had to say about his second-year signal-caller per The Rich Eisen Show:
"“Stid worked really hard last year. He was our backup quarterback the entire season. I know he’s working hard in the offseason and has made a lot of progress in terms of understanding our offense and understanding opponent defenses – like all players do from year one to year two. I’m sure he’ll get out there and be ready to, be prepared, compete hard, and we’ll see where he takes us.”"
While the Patriots are experiencing the process of a rebuilding offense, the defense was retooled and remains the identity of the team. Meanwhile, while the 49ers have a powerful moving offense built primarily on the run game surrounding Garoppolo, the identity of their team is also their defense — led by Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Richard Sherman.
The Patriots haven’t made many upgrades to the offensive side of the ball during the offseason as they head towards the start of the 2020 season with a new starting quarterback. And unlike the case with the Niners, we have no idea what to expect from New England’s offense this season.
For the Patriots to win this game, the defense is going to have to take over and make things challenging for Garoppolo. That could easily happen considering Belichick knows the ins and outs of Jimmy G’s game and will design a defensive scheme that will exploit him.
The concerning part for the Patriots this season is going to be figuring out how the offense can manufacture any production — especially against the impressive reigning NFC championship defense of the 49ers.
San Francisco also just got a recent upgrade on that side of the ball by taking Javon Kinlaw 14th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The New England Patriots will have five games to prepare themselves — including a Week 6 bye — to play the San Francisco 49ers, their top-ranked defense, and their starting quarterback: good old friend Jimmy Garoppolo.