November 2, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason (27) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland (50) during the second quarter at Levi
Saints fans were relieved to hear that 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith will not be reinstated early from his nine-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse and personal conduct policies.
That doesn’t make the Saints job of running a balanced offense any easier. The Niners are expecting to get seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis back in the defensive lineup.
Willis has been recovering from a toe injury he suffered in Week 6 against the Rams. Even if Willis isn’t 100%, rising linebacker Chris Borland could give the Saints headaches.
He recorded 18 tackles, three tackles for a loss against the Rams, the most tackles by an defensive player in a single game this year. He blew up screen plays, shot through gaps on running plays, and was in or around most of the Niners defensive stops.
"“He was everywhere. It was exciting to watch him play. I really felt bad that he had all them tackles and we didn’t get that win, because I truly know that feeling of when you go out there and feel like you had the game of your life and you don’t get the win.”– Patrick Willis on Chris Borland’s performance against the Rams"
Borland doesn’t have amazing measurables like most of the Niners big name linebackers (He’s only 5’11, ran a 4.83 time in the 40), but he makes up by playing solid instinctual football.
The 49ers probably feel like the Rams stole that game on the goal line fumble. They’ll be desperate to get above .500 especially with the rumors that the team has lost its focus.
The Niners defense ranks 5th-best defense against the run in the league. With Willis and Borland playing at a high level, it could be a long day for Mark Ingram and the Saints offensive line.