49ers Offense vs Saints Defense
I present you with the number of points that the Saints have allowed to a Kyle Shanahan-led offense in recent matchups:
2019 vs 49ers: 48 points
2016 at Falcons: 38 points
2016 at Falcons: 45 points
Yikes! Unfortunately, there is logic behind this.
If there is anything we know about New Orleans, it’s that their defense tends to be undisciplined, which leaves them vulnerable to big plays. Well, Shanahan is the master of scheming up big plays by virtue of attacking an opposing defense’s weaknesses.
Last year, the Saints could not stop quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. This year, they will go up against Nick Mullens.
Overall, the third-year backup quarterback is similar to Garoppolo in that he has a low average depth of target (6.9 yards), which is expected in an offense that relies a lot on their receivers to make plays after the catch.
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Considering that the Saints have generally struggled with tackling receivers after the catch, which was made clear in their matchups against the Panthers, Bears, and Raiders, that could be problematic for them.
Right now, San Francisco ranks in the middle of the pack in sacks allowed (2.6 per game), and count on explosive plays from their rushing attack. Mullens had the seventh-lowest time to throw in the league this season, per NFL Next Gen Stats, so I am guessing that New Orleans’ rejuvenated pass rush doesn’t make as much as an impact.
The Saints are third in rush yards allowed per attempt (3.3), so this should be a good matchup for them, right? Well, we said the same thing last year, yet the 49ers ran for 160 yards and 7 yards/attempt.
Since San Francisco utilizes multiple running backs, the Saints’ streak of not allowing a 100+ yard rusher may not be in doubt, but I would push back against the idea that they’ll neutralize the 49ers’ rushing attack.
If Mullens is able to neutralize the pass rush, I don’t know how the Saints will respond. Shanahan is going to throw a lot of different concepts at them that the Bucs and Bears didn’t, and we’ve seen New Orleans crumble against similar offenses in the Panthers and Raiders.
The 49ers not having Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, and perhaps receiver Deebo Samuel helps the Saints’ chances of limiting this offense, but my guess is that they are going to allow some points here.