Keys to the Game: 49ers vs. Saints

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Defense

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) 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

If memory serves you right, in the this game last season, it was the defense that looked good, as opposed to the offense. When we say good, we’re talking they surrendered less than 400 yards of total offense (375 to be exact, which was a big thing for that defense), and also caused some turnovers.

As for this season’s matchup, we’re really not sure what to expect from the 49ers offense. It’s so one-sided in their stats, with them being the #4 ranked rushing attack in the NFL with nearly 150 yards/game (147.7 actual), but a dead last #32 passing attack with only 173.9 yards/game. Yikes. They couldn’t get much of anything going against the Panthers last week, and in their three losses this season, they’ve scored 19 points combined. They’re not playing the Jaguars or Titans either, which was their last two wins. Arguably, aside from Seattle, this Saints defense may be the best they face for the rest of the year.

All of that being said, it’s still Frank Gore & Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers will be at a huge disadvantage should Vernon Davis, who suffered a concussion last week, not play in this game. They are still without Michael Crabtree, though rumors have surfaced around him practicing, and Mario Manningham has been limited this week. If the Saints can key on the run, and effectively key by not being too agressive, then they can force Kaepernick to beat them in the passing game, and with the limited resource of weaponry, I’d gladly welcome that. Cam Jordan reminded everyone why he’s so lethal, especially when he’s healthy, against the Cowboys last week. I fully expect the Saints to bring some big pressure, and get to Kaepernick several times during the game.

Let’s also not forget that the former Niner, Parys Haralson, is now a member of the black & gold, and has played better each week. To suggest he doesn’t have something to prove out there isn’t out of the question. If/when he gets his shot, you can hear an implosion from the Dome.

What To Watch For: The Harper/Jenkins combo. Roman Harper hasn’t played since Week 2 against the Cardinals, while Malcolm Jenkins hasn’t played since Week 7 against the Bills. The good news is that these guys have been practicing in full, and seem to be all go for the absence of Kenny Vaccaro. I don’t expect much setback from Jenkins, but Harper is one to watch for in terms of how he plays being back at full strength. Remember, Vernon Davis didn’t have a single catch last season when these two played, and was only targeted once. It was a huge credit to Harper. 

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