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Matt Patricia got an early taste of what Jimmy Garoppolo was capable of doing as an NFL quarterback.

As soon as Garoppolo was drafted in the second round by New England in 2014, he got the chance to match wits with Patricia almost every day in practice as Tom Brady’s backup, while Patricia served as defensive co-ordinator for the Patriots.

The talents Garoppolo showed on the practice field only got better whenever he got a chance to play in a game, whether it was an exhibition, mop-up duty or in two starts during Brady’s suspension in 2016.

So when Garoppolo became a star after being dealt to San Francisco, Patricia wasn’t surprised at all. He will get a firsthand look at it Sunday as coach of the Detroit Lions (0-1), who visit Garoppolo and San Francisco (0-1).

“There was always something a little bit special about Jimmy in-game,” Patricia said. “Just that extra light just came on and in the game itself you could just see really how special he was as a player.”

After winning his two starts with the Patriots, Garoppolo went 5-0 for San Francisco after a mid-season trade last year and earned a US$137.5-million, five-year contract.

His first game with the new deal didn’t go so well as he completed less than half his passes and threw three interceptions in a 24-16 loss at Minnesota. He expects a tough task this week, knowing that Patricia likes to change up his schemes, although Garoppolo hopes all that time on the practice field against his defences pays dividends.

“There’s a couple of little things you remember from over the years and stuff,” he said. “But, Matty P’s a smart coach and I’m sure they’ll have something game planned for us.”

The last time San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan had an offence take on Patricia’s defence came in the Super Bowl in 2017. Shanahan’s Atlanta Falcons took a 28-3 lead before falling apart late and losing 34-28 to the Patriots in OT. With little film of the Lions to go on after just one game with Patricia as coach, Shanahan has looked back at that game for some clues.

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