ESPN.com NFC West reporter Mike Sando has things blanketed when it comes to the 49ers. His model of coverage is admired at this address because of its thoroughness, fairness and timeliness.
With this in mind, here is this week's "best of Sando" on the 49ers, as it relates to tonight's game against the Patriots:
1. Smith vs. Kaepernick. Naturally, the decision to go with Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith has been heavily debated in San Francisco. Sando provides some stats and shares some initial thoughts.
2. 49ers' pass rush must work fast. In his "final word" piece, Sando notes that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady "has taken 20 sacks on 517 dropbacks this season. He has held the ball three or fewer seconds on 70 percent of pass attempts. That means [Aldon] Smith and the 49ers' pass-rushers need to work quickly."
3. Kaepernick & outside the numbers. Sando uses ESPNBoston's "Bruschi's Breakdown" as a springboard to look closer at quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his work throwing outside the numbers. Kaepernick's passer rating has dipped when throwing outside the numbers over the last three weeks, Sando notes. But is this really the key to the game?
4. Patriots rushing attack with sub defense. In highlighting the importance of the 49ers playing strong against the run in sub packages, Sando calls up the Patriots' league-leading stats when running against lighter defenses and puts together a chart of those numbers against the 49ers' rush defense stats in sub.
5. Introducing the "MossWatch." Curious about receiver Randy Moss' playing time this season? Or his production? Sando has the "MossWatch" to cover those details.
6. How do you slow down Tom Brady? Sando narrows things down to two main categories when considering tactics the 49ers might employ to limit quarterback Tom Brady. 1. Getting to Brady with the standard four rushers; 2. Punishing Wes Welker in the slot while limiting yards after the catch.
7. Breaking down Brady's stats. A chart breaking down Tom Brady's statistics, and how it compares to the 49ers' pass defense.