Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saints - 49ers preview

Posted By on Sat, Nov 24, 2012 at 2:36 AM

They are all big from here on out. The New Orleans Saints have six games remaining and each one is essentially a play-off game. At 5-5 the Saints can’t afford many more losses if they would like to play post season football. Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome they’ll host the 7-2 49ers.

San Francisco has the top ranked rushing attack in the NFL.
  • Photo by San Francisco 49ers
  • San Francisco has the top ranked rushing attack in the NFL.

The past is still present when you think of last season’s NFC Divisional round playoff loss in San Francisco. 36-32 was the final in a game where San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis’s touchdown with 9 seconds to play broke the hearts of Saints fans everywhere. New Orleans battled back from a 17-points deficit thanks to a heroic effort by quarterback Drew Brees. Brees finished the day 40 of 63 for 462 yards to go with four touchdown passes and two interceptions. San Francisco sacked Brees three times and hit him 11 times.

That defense is still the same this season as they are the second ranked defense overall allowing just 182.9 yards per game in the air and on the ground 93.4 yards per game. San Francisco has yielded just 134 total points this season good for the fewest in the league.

Davis in the playoff game hauled in seven catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. “I just came out and took care of my assignments, did my job,” Daivs told New Orleans reporters this week about the game back in January. “I was in a zone during the time. I never played in that atmosphere before, so I just let it all out to take advantage of my opportunities.” Davis is having a solid season yet again in 2012. Davis has 35 receptions for 487 yards to go with five touchdowns.

HARBAUGH

San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh

Is the 49ers head coach afraid of creating a quarterback controversy where they’re likely shouldn’t have been? San Francisco has made news all week with their quarterback decisions. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has been vague at times and at others praised both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick not really giving a preference.

“Both have different skill sets. They’re both winners and they both bring different things to the team. There’s no controversy. We believe in both guys and that’s what we’re going to do moving forward.”

The fun all started Monday night in the 49ers win over the Bears in San Francisco as Kaepernick went 16 of 23 for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. The players weren’t even all showered and out of the locker room before Harbaugh was telling reporters the starter Alex Smith doesn’t necessarily have a tight hold on that spot. Smith suffered a concussion two games ago and as a precaution was held out of the Bears game. Smith on the season has a quarterback rating of 104.1 while completing 70% of his passes. He has thrown for 1731 yards to go with 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

“In both guys we have quarterbacks that we’re confident in, believe in, have won for us, Alex (Smith) over a long period of 25 games and Colin (Kaepernick) playing winning football the last two times he’s been out on the field,” the fiery Harbaugh told New Orleans reporters this week. “Plus the situation is that he’s (Kaepernick) has gotten to play this year. Both of them have displayed that they are guys that we believe in, are confident in and can win for us.”
San Francisco is a Super Bowl contender. I have no earthly idea what Harbaugh is doing. It makes no sense. Smith suffered a concussion and has played well, led the comeback win against the Saints last season and frankly starting at home with a solid defense and run game is one thing. Kaepernick will have to do it in hostile territory against an offense that is substantially better than the Bears. Then again the 49ers coach isn’t exactly the poster child for stability. He is a tightly wound emotional person and openly tried to recruit Peyton Manning in the offseason to be the quarterback in the city by the Bay.

My read is the guy is playing the national and local media like the pied piper and making the Saints prepare for two quarterbacks instead of one. It’s smart. I feel this is a calculated move by the Harbaugh. I feel if Smith were truly healthy and not suffering ill effects of the concussion he would be starting Sunday.

MY TAKE

San Francisco is a very good team. Defensively there perplexed the Saints in the playoff game for pretty much the entire game. Then Brees and company figured it out and darn near pulled off a very hard fought win.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was hit 11 times in the last years playoff game.

Brees will be pressured. He will be hit. He will be frustrated. He is also playing very well as of late leading the Saints offense to being ranked second in the league in passing with 306.6 yards per game. The key will be what happens when he hands off the football.

The Saints have rushed for 140-plus yards in three straight games. Compare that to the fact that in the first seven games of the season they ran for over 100 yards just once. That mind you has come without running back Darren Sproles who is likely due to return this week after missing the last three games due to a broken hand.

A running game will help keep the 49ers passing rush at bay. Aldon Smith in particular is a scary human being. Smith has 15 sacks on the season with 10 ½ of those coming in the last four games.

Speaking of running games, San Francisco’s is the top running team in the league. If the Saints defense can control the running game it’ll put more pressure on Kaepernick.

This truly is a game where one team’s offense is pitted against another’s defense when both are among the or the best in the league. San Francisco’s defense in six of their last seven games has allowed 7 points once, 6 points once, 3 points three times and recorded a shutout.

Brees and the Saints offense have scored 30 points or more in five of their last six games 31, 35, 28, 31, and 38 in games where the Saints won. Even in the playoff loss the Saints scored 32 points against basically the same defense personnel wise.

This will resemble the Atlanta game from a few weeks back, an up and down game where the Saints will look over matched and out-physicaled. That said, the Saints defense has stepped up as of late and they are playing tremendous redzone defense. The offense I refuse to believe will be worse with addition of Sproles into the lineup. Plus you can’t discount the Who Dats. The Dome will be rocking as the Saints seek revenge.

I’m thinking the Saints continue their roll as they win 27-17. I know Robert Griffin III was a rookie and played solid football. That team he faced is not the team Kaepernick will face Sunday and playing at home is different than playing in the Superdome.

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