Saints Offense vs 49ers Defense
The bright side of the Saints’ matchup against the 49ers last year is that despite San Francisco’s defense being considered one of the top units in the league, Drew Brees and co. dropped 46 points on them.
Now, they get to face the same defense, but without edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, without cornerbacks Richard Sherman (most likely) and K’Wuan Williams.
A major reason why, in my opinion, New Orleans had so much success against this defense last year is the defensive scheme they run. The 49ers are a traditional Seattle cover-three defense that runs a lot of zone coverage, which plays to Brees’ strengths; he has always thrived when it comes to picking apart zone coverages.
The Bucs and Panthers, for instance, sat back and played zone coverage against Brees, and that ended poorly for them.
In their defensive scheme, the 49ers’ cornerbacks generally don’t travel against opposing receivers. Thus, I would strongly advise head coach Sean Payton that he take advantage of them not having Williams, their starting slot corner.
Michael Thomas’ best production generally comes from the slot, so why not line him up constantly against Jamar Taylor?
Overall, if Sherman doesn’t play, San Francisco is lacking in depth in the secondary, so this figures to be a game where Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and the Saints’ receivers generate most of their production.
The 49ers have generally performed well against tight ends and running backs this year, which you would expect from a defense led by linebacker Fred Warner, arguably the best coverage player at his position.
Thus, I wouldn’t expect this to be one of running back Alvin Kamara’s better games, and the same goes for Jared Cook. In other words, the gameplay for Payton is going to be extremely different than it was against Tampa Bay, where he picked apart their linebackers.
San Francisco also ranks 7th in rushing yards allowed per attempt, so Payton’s recent pass-heavy tendencies should continue.
In a way, that is actually a positive for them, as their lack of rushing success will cause them to pass the ball more, which will make them a more efficient offense. The 49ers have quietly been vulnerable to explosive plays this season, too, so Brees may want to look to take a couple of shots down the field.