We are now only hours away from one of the leagues marquee playoff matchups as the New Orleans Saints are set to take on the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park later this afternoon, the winner of which will advance to the NFC Championship game later this month.
There is a lot at stake for both teams — win or go home — but the matchup also pairs the NFC’s top offense against it’s top defense.
That of course begs the question: Has the NFL shifed to an offense wins championships mentality, or does the old addage of defense wins championships still apply?
New Orleans of course enters into the game with an elite, and now historic offense.
Quarterback Drew Brees threw for a new NFL record 5,476 passing yards this season. He also set a new record for completions (468) and completion percentage (71.2) while setting a new record for 300-yard passsing games in a season with 13.
Last week in the Wild Card round Brees shredded the Detriot Lions for 466 yards, the most passing yards ever in a regulation playoff game, while helping the entire offense set a new NFL record for total yards with 626 — a record that had stood for 49 years prior.
The Saints also eclipsed the “Greatest Show on Turf” after putting up 7,474 total yards from scrimmage in the regular season, 399 yards more than the 2000 St. Louis Rams net yardage mark of 7,075.
New Orleans is playing football at a level that has never before been seen, at least offensively, but they still must deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
In the regular season, under head coach John Harbaugh, the 49ers defense was among the NFL’s best — ranked 16th against the pass (301.8 ypg), first against the run (77.2 ypg), second in points surrendered (14.3 ppg), and fourth in total yards (308.2).
San Francisco also ranked as the NFL’s seventh best defense when getting to opposing quarterbacks, notching 42 sacks in the regular season.
That sack total is in large part thanks to defensive end Justin Smith and outside linebacker Aldon Smith.
Justin Smith is among the leagues most aggressive pass rushers. He had 58 tackles and 7.5 sacks in the regular season, and never quits on a play.
Rookie Aldon Smith has also emerged as force for the 49ers as he led all NFL rookies with 14.5 sacks this year.
On the year, he also added 37 stops, including 31 solo tackles, four passes defensed, two fumbles forced, one fumble recovered and a safety.
While the 49ers have yet to make their post season debut, earning a first round bye with a tie breaker over the Saints, you can be certain they want to try and make a statement against New Orleans.
Is it the Saints offense that’s has the toughest challenge, or is it the 49ers defense? Something has to give, and we are about to find out what.
Tags: 2012 NFC Divisional Round Aaron Brooks Aaron Kromer Aldon Smith Alex Smith Calvin Johnson Dennis Allen Detroit Lions Drew Brees Gregg Williams Hurricane Katrina Jabari Greer Jeff Fisher Jim Haslett Justin Smith Lance Moore Matchup Matthew Stafford Mercedes-Benz Superdome Mickey Loomis NaVorro Bowman New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints 2005 Season NFC NFC Divisional Round NFL Patrick Willis Rick Reiprish San Francisco 49′ers Sean Payton St. Louis Rams Tom Benson