After getting their rear end whooped by the Seattle Seahawks on opening weekend, the San Francisco 49ers will be looking to bounce back on Monday night at home against the defending Super Bowl champions New Orleans Saints. In order to prevent the outcome from opening weekend to reoccur, the 49ers must put their first game behind them and simply focus on the road ahead.
The New Orleans Saints looked impressive at times in their opening night win against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings- even though they only put up 14 points. While they did have their miscues, in all, they looked every bit like the champions that they are. Drew Brees showed no Super Bowl hangover and was efficient throughout the game. Pierre Thomas carried the load in the running game in the second half of that game. The defense played a phenomenal game and held the Vikings to 253 yards of offense while putting pressure on Favre all night long.
Do the 49ers have a shot at beating the Saints? Yes. Will the 49ers beat the Saints? I don’t know. It really depends on what team shows up out there on national TV on Monday night. Coach Mike Singletary is a type of coach that can make players mentally stronger, but I wonder if Alex Smith-and the rest of the team, for that matter- put that horrible first game behind them. The mistakes that the 49ers made in the first game just cannot happen this time around.
To begin with, the Saints can put up a lot of points, and they can put up them up really fast. What that means is the 49ers must play a game where they have zero turnovers. Is that possible? Yes, the Saints did it in Week 1. The 49ers have to play that kind of game in Week 2. Secondly, the Saints had just 3 penalties in their first game. The 49ers: 8. In other words, the penalties have to be cut down because they can hurt really badly. Granted, the 49ers were playing away in an environment known to have extremely loud fans. Third, while the secondary only allowed 165 passing yards to Seattle, Nate Clements must have a better game this week. In one play versus the Seahawks, he “bit” on a passing play to Seahawks reclamation project Mike Williams, which allowed Williams to break loose for 35 yards. Should he decide to do the same against the Saints, the secondary will be in for a long night.
Why the 49ers will win:
1. They are coached by one of the greatest motivators in the game. Mike Singletary will get it in their head that this game will define, true or not. Not only are they playing the defending champions, they will also have all eyes on them- playing on national television. He will let them know that it is a test to their character and it will show how great they really want to be this season.
2. Frank Gore will bounce back from his poor Week 1 outing. I get the feeling that Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye will go back to the basics and have the 49ers running game present early and often. First, it will “slow down” the Saints offense as the 49ers will eat up the clock. Secondly, it will put less pressure on Alex Smith who seems to have questionable confidence not only in himself, but also in the offense.
Why the Saints will win:
1. They know how to get it done. The Saints have always found a way to win games, dating back to last season. Whether it is by an overtime field goal, or fluky plays such as the one where Robert Meachem basically snatched the ball out of Redskins defensive back (after a Drew Brees INT), and ran it other way for TD (I know, it was in 2nd quarter, but nonetheless it still swung the momentum in Saints’ favor), the Saints clearly know how to finish. They always seem to make a big play when it matters the most.
2. They will start their engines. Relatively speaking, Saints head coach Sean Payton’s offense was not at full speed. He will make sure that his men on offense go to work and put on a show for America on Monday night.
My Prediction: 49ers win 23-20. Call me crazy. While it is foolish to think the Saints will only put up only 20 points after only scoring 14 in Week 1, I just cannot envision a scenario in which the 49ers will have to keep up with the Saints if things end up in a shootout. And, I do believe the 49ers will win, simply because they have to. If they do not win, things will not be smooth in the Bay Area because of the expectations bestowed on the 49ers during the offseason. Besides, I know these Saints are not my father’s Saints, but who really believes the Saints will start 2-0 in consecutive seasons.
Saints Gab Prediction: Saints 38-24
SportsGab Network Editor: Saints 27-20