The moment is almost here, the moment the San Francisco 49ers and their fans have waited 8 long years for: the Playoffs. The 49ers will welcome red hot Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to Candlestick Park, in a matchup of one of the league’s best offenses and one of the league’s best defenses. The Saints come into the game riding a 6 game win streak against the 49ers, the last time the Saints lost to the 49ers was on January 6th 2002, when the 49ers won 38-0. Both teams come into the game with only 3 losses each, but the difference is the 49ers have gotten here with a stout defense led by Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman.
The Saints have gotten to where they are on the arm of the league’s new single season passing leader Drew Brees. New Orleans has the most high powered offense that the 49ers will have faced this season. The Saints have once again started to get their run game going, again utilizing Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Chris Ivory. The Saints average 467 yards of offense per game, while the 49ers average 310. The 49ers rely heavily on the legs of Frank Gore, and only call on Alex Smith when needed. The question that has to be asked is if the 49ers offense can keep pace with the Saints if this game becomes a shootout.
San Francisco’s defense will try to ensure that a shootout does not happen. While the 49ers passing defense has been suspect at times, and gives up 230 yards per game on average, the Saints will have to try and run the ball on the league’s best run defense. The Saints defense must find a way to keep Gore and Kendall Hunter in check, and get lots of pressure on Alex Smith to try and get him to make mistakes. The Saints also can’t allow Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree to find their way to open space, as they are very talented and can make them pay.
On paper this matchup looks to be the hottest of the divisional weekend, but these games aren’t played on paper. The Saints must remember that they aren’t playing the Lions this week, the 49er know how to tackle and do so effectively. If Brees heats up it’s going to be hard for the 49ers to contain the passing attack. If San Francisco can get to Brees early and often, they can force him to make bad choices and cause turnovers. In the end, if the 49ers do what they need to do on defense and don’t let this turn into a shootout they should pull this game out, even without much playoff experience, because remember Defense Wins Championships.
Final: 49ers 24- Saints 21