Posted: 1/14/2012 4:00:38 PM
Both the Saints
and Niners reached thirteen wins employing contradictory strategies.
The Saints are known for their record breaking passing attack, while San
Francisco is more "old school" with their ground and pound ball control
strategy. The Saints have a bend but don't break defense that gives up
plenty of yards, while the Niners have a "we'll break you" defense that
takes the ball away. The Saints always seem to find themselves in
shootouts, winning in spite of a -3 turnover ratio; on the other hand,
the Niners come out ahead in defensive battles while enjoying a +28
San Fran isn't known for the vertical pass - Alex Smith averages 183
yards per game on 28 attempts. Yet he's protecting the ball, only
throwing 5 interceptions all year - one every 90 attempts (Drew throws
an interception for every 47 attempts). As an offense, the Niners
haven't turned the ball over in the last five games of the season.
They're patient; they can afford to be because though they only convert
on 29% of their 3rd downs, they enjoy the best turnover margin in the NFL.
Look at it another way: despite having a -3 turnover ratio, the
Saints outscore their opponents by an average of 13 points per game.
With a +28 turnover ratio, the 49'ers only score 9 points more than
their opponents, and that total is still 10 points less than what the
Saints average. San Francisco's offense is only better than the Rams, Seahawks, Colts, Jaguars, Browns, and Chiefs.
If you are paying attention, San Francisco's pitiful offense is in the
same division as two of the 5 worst offenses in the NFL. When it is
said like that, their defense doesn't look that great. The fact is that
"awesome" Niners defense only gives up 60 yards less per game than does
the Saints "porous" defense. As for ball control, the 49ers only possess the ball 9 seconds longer than the Saints each game.
. For all the cockamamie "Saints struggle on the road"
believers, consider this: the Saints are an NFL best 18-6 on the road
over the last three years. I bet if you looked up the record over the
last six years since Sean Payton took the helm, they'd probably be top 5
as a road team in that span.
The Saints offensive line allows the passing and rushing attack to
harmonize. They've faced the big bad Giants and Lions
defensive fronts and dominated. What would lead you to believe this
won't be the case against San Fran? The Saints have the more versatile
and successful RB group, WR group, and the better TE and QB. Who would
you choose - the targets Drew Brees enjoys or the Niner coverage unit? It's not even close.
Yes, they have two LB's playing out of their minds in Willis
and Bowman. Aldon and Justin Smith
are looking like brothers from another mother, and the front 7 in
general is playing at a top level. Their best quality is that the first
guy always seems to make the tackle. So what does that mean? It means
the Saints and Drew Brees will have to be patient in the early going.
It means the Saints offensive line will have to continue to bring the
wood and rise up to the challenge. It means the Saints will have a
golden opportunity of throwing a haymaker when they lull the Niners to
sleep with the nickel and dime body punches.
The Niners remind me of Atlanta. They have explosive targets in the
passing game, but their QB is too inaccurate and inconsistent to put the
game on his shoulders. Translation: they depend on the run game, and
if they have to throw too much they lose. They take their time getting
the snap off and try to shorten the game as much as possible. The
defense is stout. They don't allow yards after contact, they get
pressure, and they get turnovers. With that said, the ONLY thing that
scares me about this game is that it is the first play-off game for many
of the Niners players, including building blocks such as Gore and
Willis. It is the first home playoff game in a very long time, and the
atmosphere will be crunk. The Saints don't need to start fast, but it
would sure go a long way in securing a victory.
The Saints have scored over 40 points the past 4 consecutive weeks.
The Saints have shattered just about every offensive record you can look
up. They're riding a 9 game winning streak and have looked dominant
with balance where it counts. There's been so much talk about the 49ers
run defense, but most forget to mention New Orleans two All-Pro Guards.
San Fran will be concerned with stopping Daren "Mighty Mouse" Sproles
and Jimmy "Graham Reaper." They'll be concerned with stopping Drew
Brees. I think the Saints will be able to run the ball well - well
enough to convert on 3rd down and well enough to out rush San Francisco.
I think the machine known as the "Gulf Coast Offense" will win this
game by a large margin. I'm not sold on San Francisco. I respect how
they play sound football, making tackles and stopping YAC, not turning
the ball over, and controlling the clock. Yet I can't help but look at
who they've played against, and more importantly, WHEN those games were
played. It's about timing. You see, the Niners beat the Steelers,
but it was when Big Ben was a statue playing on one leg. They beat
Detroit when Stafford had a bo-bo on his finger and his RB had a
concussion. They beat the Giants while the G-men had half their defense
and RB's on the sideline with injury. Their division stinks this year,
and helped them to an inflated record. Remember that 9 game winning
streak we talked about?
Will the Niners defense put up a spirited fight? Sure, but it won't
be enough. It won't be near enough. Go ahead and wet down the field -
hopefully you don't forget to pay the water bill, because in a day game
we don't care if you lose electricity. The Saints have TEAM speed, and
any field conditions that will affect speed also would affect San Fran's
pass rush. Give Drew Brees more time and he won't have to nickle and
dime you. I believe the Saints will embarrass San Francisco. Alex
Smith won't keep up with Drew Brees, and the Niners will be forced to
abandon ball control if they want to win.