Wilfork: Sideline adjustments will be key against Niners

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Wilfork: Sideline adjustments will be key against Niners

FOXBORO -- Don't be surprised on Sunday to see a lot of this: Vince Wilfork and the rest of the Patriots defensive line on the sideline, huddled on a bench and listening to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia bark instructions, or with Bill Belichick crouched in front of them diagramming what should happen on the next series. Same for every defensive positional group.

It's a short week for the Patriots. After Monday night's game, they have one less day of preparation time than they normally might, and because of the number of different formations employed by the Niners, it will be difficult to prepare for all of them by kickoff on Sunday night.

That's why Wilfork believes making the correct sideline adjustments will be critical. The Patriots are going to have to learn on the fly against San Francisco's myriad offensive looks.

"This week is going to be very, very crucial for us getting back to the sidelines every series to go over things they're doing differently," Wilfork said. "It's impossible to try to cover everything they do because they do a bunch of things -- two-back formations, three-back, sometimes four guys. Four tight ends. It's a lot of work. We have to prepare well and make a sideline adjustment. It's going to be crucial for us this week."

Aside from the number of formations the Niners use, they change personnel and make frequent substitutions, which adds another layer for which New England must prepare.

"When you turn on the film, you see a bunch of formations, different numbers come in and out," Wilfork said. "They change by the play, every other play, people coming in, running in and off the field. It's going to be some work. This week's going to be very, very crucial for us on sideline adjustments. Probably biggest one of the year so we'll have to do a good job on sideline adjustments and in practice also."

One player Wilfork expects to be on the field and the focal point of those unusual multi-back sets: his old college teammate, Niners running back Frank Gore.

In his eighth year in the league, Gore is over the 1000-yard mark for the sixth time and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He's the No. 1 reason San Francisco has the second best rushing attack in the league at 167.8 yards per game.

"Frank is Frank," said Wilfork, who played with Gore for three years at the University of Miami. "Ever since I played with him till now. Still running the ball hard. He's one of those backs. He's an old school back. He could care less running sideline to sideline. He'd rather duck his head and get the hard 2, 3, 4 yards, and he's pretty shifty."

Then there's new Niners quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who's also a threat to run out of the backfield. Wilfork lumped Kaepernick with the new era of NFL quarterbacks -- like Weashington's Robert Griffin III -- who can run and throw with accuracy. Though a headache for a defensive tackle, Wilfork admitted that they're likely "the future" of the position.

"I get tired of chasing quarterbacks around," Wilfork said. "Chase running backs and then you have to worry about the quarterback's rush lanes and things like that. You can't set a front to a certain way. There are certain ways you have to play those guys and you have to be very cautious of how you play them. We're gonna have a test this week, I'll tell you that."

Wilfork said (a little sheepishly) that the Niners offense may have even more varied sets than the Patriots.

"We don't have more than three running backs in at a time," he said. "We don't have lineman in the backfield all the time. Like I said, these guys run some plays like, man, you can give an offensive lineman the ball. You never know. You can't be surprised what they show you because they show you so many things, and I'm pretty sure they have a lot more. So we're going to expect the kitchen sink."

When they get it, they'll head back to the sideline, talk it out, and hope that they're ready for whatever comes next.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley explode in shootout win vs. 49ers

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley explode in shootout win vs. 49ers

Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns and Todd Gurley ran for two TDs and caught another to help the Los Angeles Rams put up another big offensive performance with a 41-39 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night.

The NFL's lowest-scoring team last year looks like a completely different outfit this season under first-year coach Sean McVay thanks to vastly improved play by Goff after a rough rookie season as the No. 1 overall pick.

The Rams (2-1) have also been helped by the additions of receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods and the play-calling of McVay as they have scored 107 points through three games. That's the second-most in franchise history, trailing only the 119 by "The Greatest Show on Turf" squad in 2000.

This win didn't come easy as the Rams nearly blew a 15-point lead, giving up two late touchdowns, fumbling a kickoff return and failing to recover an onside kick. But Los Angeles managed to stop a potential game-tying 2-point conversion and then used an offensive pass interference penalty against Trent Taylor and a fourth-down sack by Aaron Donald to stop the Niners after the onside kick.

The 49ers (0-3) scored five touchdowns after failing to get any the first two weeks but still came up short in part because a missed extra point by Robbie Gould forced them to try for 2 on their late touchdown.

This time it was a tired defense that hurt San Francisco. After facing 79 plays in a 12-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers appeared to run out of gas on the short week as Goff frequently had wide-open receivers, especially on third down.

All three of Goff's touchdown passes came on third down, including a 13-yard pass to Watkins early in the fourth quarter that gave Los Angeles a 41-26 lead.

The Rams needed all that offense on a night where Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

QUICK START: The Rams took just 12 seconds to get on the board as Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted Hoyer on the first play from scrimmage and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it in on the next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

DROUGHT BUSTER: The 49ers came into the game without a touchdown on the season but broke through in the first quarter with some help from the Rams. After Blake Countess jumped offside on a punt, the Niners took advantage of the second opportunity and drove to score on Hoyer's 9-yard run 126:43 into the season. That was the longest it took a team to score its first TD since 2006 when both Tampa Bay (143:03) and Oakland (127:10) took more time.

FOURTH DOWN CALLS: Both teams drove to the opposing 1 on their opening drives of the second half with help from a Willie Mays-style basket catch by Watkins and a perfect toe drag on the sideline by San Francisco's Pierre Garcon. But the Rams opted to kick a short field goal, while the 49ers went for it and converted on Carlos Hyde's 1-yard run that cut Los Angeles' lead to 27-20. Hyde added a second 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES: Rams S Lamarcus Joyner left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Los Angeles C John Sullivan injured his groin in the second half and Watkins and Tavon Austin left with concussions. ... 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), FB Kyle Juszczyk (neck), DL Tank Carradine (ankle) and LB Brock Coyle (concussion) all left with injuries in the second half.

UP NEXT: The Rams travel to Dallas on Oct. 1. The 49ers visit Arizona.

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Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

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Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST.

0:41 - Tom E. Curran breaks down the ‘blueprint’ to beat the Patriots and if the Texans have the talent to do it.

5:27 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving’s comments that he made on Early Edition about going back to Cleveland for the opening game. 

9:52 - We take a listen to what Malcolm Butler had to say about his role on the team and discuss how the cornerback keeps saying all the right things. 

15:18 - Michael McCann, Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated joins BST to talk about Aaron Hernandez’s brain found to have CTE and his family now suing the NFL and the Patriots.