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How the Patriots and 49ers have changed since their last meeting

The New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers are among the most successful franchises in NFL history, and yet they are meeting for only the 14th time ever on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots, who are entering the contest with a 2-3 record, are hoping for a game that looks like the last the two teams played in: in Week 11 of the 2016 season, New England traveled to California to come away with a rather lopsided 30-17 victory.

Let’s take a look back at that game to find out how both clubs have changed over the years.

Patriots changes

The following players from the teams’ last meeting on November 20, 2016, are still with the team:

C David Andrews, LS Joe Cardona, WR Julian Edelman, CB Jonathan Jones, G Shaq Mason, S Devin McCourty, WR Matthew Slater, G Joe Thuney, RB James White

Offense: The biggest change compared to the last game against San Francisco is obviously the departure of starting quarterback Tom Brady. However, the Patriots also saw some additional turnover on the offensive side of the ball, especially when it comes to the receiving group. While Julian Edelman and James White, who combined to catch 14 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, are still available, the other pass catchers from that game are not: Malcolm Mitchell (4/98/1), Danny Amendola, (2/2/1) Dion Lewis (3/26) and Martellus Bennett (1/14) are all out. The offensive tackles, meanwhile, have also changed.

Defense: The last few offseasons have impacted the Patriots quite a bit, leaving safety Devin McCourty as the lone starter remaining from the last game against the 49ers. As a matter of fact, there is only one other defender still with the team from back then — and he was used exclusively on special teams: cornerback Jonathan Jones. Other core players such as defensive ends Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, cornerbacks Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe and Logan Ryan, and safeties Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon have all left the team either through free agency, trade, retirement or opt-out.

Special teams: While Joe Cardona and Matthew Slater are still in New England as core special teamers, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen and safety Nate Ebner are no longer part of the equation. Allen left the team in 2019 after losing the training camp competition against Jake Bailey, with Gostkowski and Ebner departing earlier this year.

Coaching staff: While the likes of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are still running the show in New England, the rest of the coaching staff did see some turnover. The most prominent departees are long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who retired this offseason and was replaced by Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo, as well as defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Since Patricia’s departure in early 2018, the Patriots are operating with an official coordinator on that side of the ball.

49ers changes

The following players from the teams’ last meeting on November 20, 2016, are still with the team:

CB Dontae Johnson, S Jaquiski Tartt, S Jimmie Ward

Offense: The Patriots’ offensive turnover since November 2016 is significant, but it does not compare to what San Francisco experienced: not a single member of the offense from four years ago is still with the team as new head coach Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch completely reinvented the team’s attack. This means that core players and long-time starters such as quarterback Colin Kaepernick and offensive tackle Joe Staley are no longer around, having been replaced by a younger attack led by ex-Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo — who was active against his new team in 2016 but did not see the field — and tight end George Kittle.

Defense: While the 49ers’ offense is unrecognizable compared to its 2016 version, the defense has at least some continuity compared to four years ago: safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, the team’s two starting safeties, are still around, as is rotational cornerback and special teamer Dontae Johnson. That said, only Johnson will be available against New England on Sunday after Ward and Tartt have already been ruled out due to quad and groin injuries, respectively.

Special teams: Former Patriot Robbie Gould is one of the NFL’s best and most experienced kickers, but he was not with the 49ers in 2016 just yet: while he was with the New York Giants, Phil Dawson was handling kicking duties in San Francisco. He is gone since then, as are all other members of the team’s kicking operation not also named Ward, Tartt or Johnson.

Coaching staff: After the 49ers’ 2-14 season in 2016, the organization decided to make some changes: head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke were fired and replaced by the aforementioned duo of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Accordingly, the team’s coaching staff also looks drastically different when compared to the one from four seasons ago. In fact, only one assistant coach has remained in San Francisco throughout the regime change, assistant special teams coach Michael Clay.

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