The 49ers are a team built to run the ball.
Head coach Mike Singletary made sure of that this year when he drafted two offensive linemen in the first round of the draft taking offensive tackle Anthony Davis (11th) and offensive guard Mike Iupati (17th).
For the Saints defense the task at hand is a clear one, shut down running back Frank Gore and put the game on the shoulders of inconsistent 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
Frank Gore is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL rushing for over a thousand yards in five of the last six seasons.
The 49ers utilize Gore in as many ways as possible with screens, sweeps, power runs and even lining him up as a receiver much like the Saints do with Reggie Bush.
The 49ers offense begins and ends, literally, with Frank Gore.
In the 49ers season opener last week against the Seattle Seahawks Gore was held to 38 yards rushing on 17 attempts.
Once the Seahawks had Gore shutdown the 49ers were left with no choice but to put the ball into the air and the game on the shoulders of Smith.
He would respond by completing only 57.8 percent of his passes for 225 yards and two interceptions, he was also sacked twice and lost a fumble.
Obviously Seattle would go on to win the game 31-6 in dominate fashion.
So you shutdown Frank Gore and the 49ers offense grinds to a screeching hault.
The 49ers however have another weapon besides running back Frank Gore the Saints must account for; tight end Vernon Davis.
Last week during the Vikings game the Saints gave up one lone touchdown to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe late in the second quarter when Favre found him streaking down the hash marks for the score.
You can bet that the 49ers took notice and hope to duplicate that success with Davis who has developed into Smith’s favorite target especially in red zone situations.
Davis is only a year removed from setting career highs in receptions (78), yards (965) and touchdowns (13) making his first ever Pro Bowl last season.
What makes Davis such a dangerous threat is his size and speed standing at 6-3 and weighing 250 pounds he can run a sub 4.5 forty making him one of the fastest tight ends in the NFL today.
Simply put his freakish athletic ability make his presence on the field a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses as it’s too hard for most linebackers to cover him with his speed and likewise too hard for most corners to cover him because of his size.
Because of this the Saints will have to commit a safety to shadow Davis over the top, that task most likely will be the responsibility of strong safety Roman Harper.
Harper and the entire Saints defense will be up to the task.