Keys to the Game: 49ers vs. Saints

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Offense

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) scores a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Cowboys 49-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Those looking for a repeat of Mark Ingram’s Sunday Night outing should not really look for it for this game. Of course, we have seen crazier things happen over the past few seasons, but the 49ers are ranked #12 in the NFL against the run, allowing 105.1 yards/game. Their passing defense is even better, which is ranked #8 in the NFL, allowing just 211.7 yards/game.

Now, here’s the encouraging part. With Sean Payton against the 49ers in that 2012 Divisional Playoff game, the Saints churned out 472 total yards of offense vs. the 290 total yards minus Sean Payton in last year’s regular season game. Again, the fact the Saints churned out that much offense despite turning it over 5 times was something amazing. In that game, Brees threw it 63 times, vs. the 14 rush attempts. Look for a very balanced attack from Sean Payton this game, as we showed everyone last week, the team CAN run the ball. It will have to keep teams honest.

The big key is how the offensive line follows up their performance against Dallas. Over the past 2 games against the 49ers, Brees has been sacked 8 times. Everyone knows that this game will be as physical as they come, so the offensive line will be tasked with protecting Drew long enough for him to find the open man.

Darren Sproles has been relatively quiet compared to the beginning of the season. Yes, he did have a good bounce back game against the Cowboys (12 rush yards, 7 receptions for 76 yards, TD, fumble lost). However, I’m talking about the Beast Mode in which he has an extremely big day on the stat sheet. The 49ers will have to account for him while he is on the field, as does every team that plays the Saints, but I believe he can also pose a silent threat by lining up in the slot, or in a two back set with Pierre Thomas or Ingram. It could cause some confusion for the 49ers, and turn into some big plays. Speaking of PT, he’s quietly had some solid games as a dual threat in the receiving & running game, to suggest he doesn’t play a factor in any game is crazy.

Again, the magnitude of these games calls for your best, and I fully expect Marques Colston to have another big day. Check the Did You Know? part of the article for an interesting fact about Colston you may, or may not have known. I’d fully expect the Saints to roll with all five receivers on Sunday.

What To Watch For: Josh Hill. With Ben Watson likely out for this game due to the concussion, which looked way worse than what it was, the undrafted rookie free agent out of Idaho State is going to see a lot more of the field on Sunday. His primary role is a blocking tight end, but we’ve seen Brees look for him at times over the season. How he blocks on Sunday could spell the difference for the dedication to the run game. 

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