Well, in the biggest game for the 49ers since 2002, I figured I'd give it so much attention, we'll do a two-part preview to the 49ers-Saints game this Saturday at Candlestick Park.
In part one, I wanted to talk a little bit about what I think the offense and defense each need to focus on, and then in part 2, we'll do a straight list of things that need to happen in order for the 49ers to win, and things that, if happen, the 49ers haven't a snowflakes chance in hell. Now, starting with the offense, I don't think they should change anything up from what they did all year, at least at the start of the game. Establish the run, let Alex do some play fakes and some easy short-route completions, I don't care if they're only 3-5 yards, they have to keep the ball moving and keep the clock running offensively. Obviously, they're going to need Frank Gore and the offensive line to be on their A-game, and not only in the running game. The Saints aren't a top defense by any means, and the 49ers shouldn't have too much of a problem getting the run game going, but what the Saints front does do is bring a lot of pressure and they'll blitz you, especially if they get a lead. That's where having Gore is so key, because he's one of the best, if not the best, blitz pick-up/blocking backs in the NFL. Again, that's why I say a lot of screens, and short routes against this team will be effective if executed properly. Get Frank to bust off a couple 10-15 yard runs to get the defense honest, and then take your chance down field on a play fake. I'm not saying go all-out conservative by any stretch, cause they're going to have to score some points. Take your shots down field and take them with regularity, but don't try and play the Saints game and keep up with them via the pass. Ball control/game clock control while establishing the run should be the team approach to start the game.
Defensively, they really need to focus on two key players in my mind, and those two are the ones that pose the toughest matchup for defenses, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. I would assign Dashon Goldson to Graham, just because he's got the strength and speed to keep up with the TE/WR and has cover skills as a college CB. If that means using Goldson as a quasi-linebacker/cornerback than albeit. Let Reggie Williams or Madieu Williams slide into the safety spot if need be or come up with defensive schemes that use Goldson on Graham. As with Sproles, I really think they need to treat him like a wideout and when the dudes on the field, bring in an extra DB to account for him. The 49ers have a strong enough front to play with an extra DB in the lineup and sort of a 3-3 front. As good as Pierre Thomas looked vs. Lions, I'm not at all worried about him at all. I doubt he averages 8 YPC vs. the 49ers stout D, but Sproles does worry me, so keep as much speed on the field as you possibly can. As for the receivers, I have confidence in the way that Carlos Rogers has been playing, that he should battle Marques Colston pretty well, but it's going to be on the 49ers front getting pressure on Mr. Brees. The 49ers absolutely have to have Brees under pressure all-day long from start to finish. Play Aldon Smith as much as he possibly can take, and bring 5+ guys each and every time Brees drops back to pass. Again, I have confidence in this teams' secondary when the team's pass rush is on it's game. That's when they get their picks and play their best.
Either way, it's going to shape up as a very good battle at the 'Stick Saturday, and if your lucky enough to have tickets, your in for one helluva a battle. An offensive powerhouse vs. a defensive juggernaut. The ultimate strength vs. strength game! Check back tomorrow for more 49ers and Saints talk as well as predictions for the weekends games!