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The San Francisco 49ers hosted their first NFL playoff game in nine years when they faced off against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. At the end of the day, they were headed to their first NFC Championship Game appearance since 1997 following their 36-32 victory.
Driving the win the whole way for the Niners was their talented tight end, Vernon Davis. Davis finished the game with seven catches for 180 yards and two touchdown passes from quarterback Alex Smith, including the game-winner in the final ten seconds of the game.
The 180 receiving yards by Davis ended up being the most by a tight end in a single postseason game in NFL history. He easily trumped the old record of 166 yards, set by Kellen Winslow of the San Diego Chargers in 1982. The yardage is also the second-most receiving yards in a single postseason game in 49ers franchise history, behind only Jerry Rice, who had 215 yards in the Super Bowl in 1989 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Here is what Davis had to say about the game-winning touchdown catch at the postgame press conference:
Yes, I knew it was coming, we rehearsed it all week in practice. Alex knew right away that once I got 12, 14 yards, planted the outside foot, and looked for the ball. It was the exact same thing. It worked. I had confidence in myself and Alex. Confidence in the play.
Davis appeared emotional immediately following the touchdown. He was asked what was going through his mind.
History...history was going through my mind. It was us against history. I said to myself, ‘it's us against no and us against can't'. All those things. We managed to pull it off. It was a very emotional game, it was like a roller coaster. Very stressful for me, and as I can imagine, stressful for my teammates. Especially our defense in that last play. I knew right away that I had to step up and be a factor, help out, and I did it.
Davis certainly did make history on Saturday, in more ways than one.
The San Francisco 49ers hosted the New Orleans Saints on Saturday at Candlestick Park in the first NFL playoff game for the Niners in nine years. The wait ended up being worth it, as the 49ers came away with the 36-32 win to advance to the NFC Championship Game in a thrilling contest that can only be described as an instant classic. The game features five turnovers by the Saints and a fourth quarter where the lead changed hands no less than four times before the 49ers sealed the deal in the final minute of play.
We have collected some of the video highlights from the game for you right here in one easy location.
The first key play of the game came midway through the first quarter, when the New Orleans Saints were deep in the San Francisco red zone. A handoff to Pierre Thomas from inside the 10-yard line was met by a helmet-to-helmet stop by Donte Whitner that appeared to knock Thomas cold and cause a fumble, which was recovered by the 49ers.
With just over 2:00 left in the first quarter, the 49ers opened scoring when Alex Smith connected with tight end Vernon Davis on a touchdown pass.
Just a matter of seconds later, the Saints had their second costly turnover of the first quarter as Drew Brees threw an interception that Dashon Goldson picked and ran back to inside the five-yard line.
The Goldson interception put San Francisco in prime position for Smith's second touchdown pass of the quarter, this time to Michael Crabtree.
Although the Niners had jumped out to a 17-0 lead by the beginning of the second quarter, Brees and the Saints climbed back into the thick of things and the quarterback appeared to be leading his team on a two-minute drill at the end of the half with his team only down 17-14. So it was a huge play when Tarell Brown snagged an interception on a long Brees bomb to help get the 49ers into the half with their lead intact.
The 49ers picked up yet another big turnover in the opening minutes of the second half, when Darren Sproles was unable to hang onto the football during a return.
The 49ers lost the lead on a Darren Sproles touchdown, but regained it with 2:11 left in regulation on this spectacular 28-yard run by Alex Smith:
The Saints retook the lead on a Brees touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham, but with just nine seconds left on the clock, Smith capped off a last-minute drive with a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis that very well may take its place in the annals of beloved 49ers memorable and historic catches. Here's the game-winner in all its glory:
It was a game that San Francisco football fans will be talking about for years to come, and for good reason.
The San Francisco 49ers came out in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints, and took a 14-0 lead. Nobody saw the Saints trailing by that margin, but eventually, New Orleans got the read on San Francisco and started coming back. They even took the lead, forcing the 49ers to come back twice to win it in the final seconds. What was most impressive was the fact that San Francisco could actually come back like that.
Even more surprising is the fact that Alex Smith has led six fourth quarter comebacks this season and still a comeback was surprising. Are you following?
It's just hard to really process that it happened, even if we've seen the 49ers do that kind of thing all season. They won the kind of game they were supposed to win. There were players and coaches who stepped up when things weren't following the script, and it came out in San Francisco's favor. That was the kind of thing this team has been unable to do for many years now.
When Michael Crabtree dropped a couple passes in a row, it was Vernon Davis who stepped up big time. He had two touchdowns and 180 yards off of seven receptions, breaking an NFL postseason record for a tight end in a single game. Joe Staley and Mike Iupati had huge games when the right side of the line struggled and Jonathan Goodwin missed some time. When the gameplan was atrocious, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman threw in that beautiful Alex Smith run that went for a touchdown.
That's a team that doesn't give up. A team that knows how to adjust. Something like that has taken this team far, and continue to take them far so long as they can do it. They need to adapt to the situation, never give up and win at all costs. The 49ers did that on Saturday.
The San Francisco 49ers hosted the New Orleans Saints on Saturday afternoon at Candlestick Park in a playoff game that was a long time coming for the beleaguered Bay Area franchise. When the smoke had cleared, the 49ers came out on top after a wild fourth quarter and advanced to the NFC Championship Game on a final score of 36-32.
Until the final seconds, it looked as if the major difference in the game would the turnovers by the Saints that the 49ers were unable to capitalize on. New Orleans turned the ball over an incredible five times, yet the Niners only managed one touchdown off of those five turnovers.
The Niners jumped out to a 17-0 lead by the beginning of the second quarter. The first quarter featured touchdown passes from quarterback Alex Smith to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The second quarter got underway wil a 25-yard field goal from the nearly-automatic David Akers.
The Saints would climb back into the game in the second quarter, however, on touchdown passes from the dangerous Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, the latter being a pinpoint 25-yard pass to the very corner of the end zone on the fly. The 49ers held a 17-14 lead entering halftime.
In the third quarter, the only scoring by either team came on another Akers field goal, this one from 41 yards out to push the 49ers lead to six points.
The fourth quarter saw the largest frenzy of scoring in the game, including four lead changes. John Kasay made a 48-yard field goal in the opening two minutes to cut the Niners lead to 20-17. The 49ers countered with their own 37-yard Akers field goal midway through the quarter. Less than three minutes later, however, the Saints took the lead for the first time on a Darren Sproles 44-yard touchdown pass from Brees. The TD put the Saints on top, 24-23. Alex Smith turned around and led the Niners on a 6-play, 80-yard drive, capped off with a 28-yard touchdown run from Smith to put the Niners back on top, 29-24. San Francisco failed to complete a two-point conversion attempt. Just 34 seconds later, Brees launched a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham to take the lead once again. They completed their two-point conversion when Brees hooked up with Sproles in the end zone. Just like that, the Saints had a three-point lead with less than 2:00 remaining in regulation. The Niners were looking at a 32-29 deficit and looking to get into field goal range for Akers.
Smith began the final drive of the 49ers with a pair of passes to Gore. Following an incomplete pass, he launched a bomb to Davis for a gain of 47 yards in what was undoubtedly the biggest play of the game to that point. The play brought the Niners to the New Orleans 20-yard line. Smith then threw to Gore for another six yards, after which the 49ers spiked the ball. They knew that they had one timeout remaining, so they had enough time to attempt a first down and perhaps make one try for the end zone before bringing Akers on to tie the game. As it turned out, they would not need either the time out or Akers, as Smith completed a 14-yard touchdown pass right up the middle to Davis to take the lead for the last time. The catch was Davis' second touchdown of the game and the third TD pass for Smith. The 49ers were up 36-32 with 14 seconds left. A squib kick and a stop later, the 49ers had won their first playoff game in years and were headed to the NFC Championship Game.
It was one of the more exciting games in recent memory, one which the white-hot crowd at Candlestick Park will remember for a long, long time.
Since the end of the first quarter, the 49ers offense has struggled to find a rhythm but, luckily for them, their tough defense and excellent special teams play has kept them in the lead through the game. That's the main reason why the San Francisco 49ers lead the New Orleans Saints by a score of 20-14 after the third quarter came to an end in Candlestick Park. That, and Saints turnovers.
The Niners got the ball first to start the second half but went three-and-out. They punted the ball away but for the second time in the game, the Saints' special teams unit fumbled during a return. This time it was Darren Sproles that fumbled the punt return and the 49ers recovered at New Orleans' 26-yard line.
The Niners weren't able to convert the fifth Saints turnover of the game into a touchdown but David Akers was able to send a field goal through the uprights to give the Niners a six-point lead.
They held on to that lead throughout the rest of the quarter as neither team was able to score by the time the final seconds ticked off the clock. The Saints have the ball and will start the last quarter driving down the field. Will the old saying "defense wins championships" prove to be correct again today?
The story of the divisional playoff game in Candlestick Park between the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints has been Saints turnovers. The 49ers won the first quarter by taking a 14-0 lead and even though they were held to only a field goal in the second quarter and the Saints have scored two touchdowns, the 49ers have the momentum due to the fact that they have forced four Saints turnovers -- two Drew Brees interceptions and fumbles by Pierre Thomas and Courtney Roby.
Roby fumbled a kickoff at the very end of the first quarter and the Niners recovered near the Saints' end zone but they were stopped and were forced to kick a field goal, taking a 17-0 lead over the Saints early in the second quarter. Drew Brees and the Saints offense was able to get back in the game on the very next drive. He led the powerful New Orleans offense 80 yards down the field and capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a 49ers three-and-out on the next drive, Brees did it again. This time, a seven play, 66-yard drive was capped off by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston, narrowing the Niners' lead to three points.
The Saints seemed to have all the momentum as the Niners were forced to punt again after five plays on their next drive. The Saints were looking to score on three straight drives and take the lead but the 49ers' Tarell Brown was able to steal the momentum back with a huge interception with just over two minutes left in the half.
And, just in case you missed it, here's a GIF of yet another huge hit by safety Donte Whitner on Brown's non-return.
The 49ers weren't able to score as a result of the interception but stopping the Saints from taking the lead is almost just as good. Both teams were held scoreless for the rest of the half and the Niners left the field to head to the locker room with a 17-14 lead at the end of the second quarter.
The 49ers will receive the ball first in the third quarter as they won the coin toss and deferred to start the game.
The Saints aren't the only team now with important players on the sidelines due to injury. San Francisco 49ers starting center Jonathan Goodwin limped off the field with a right leg injury halfway through the second quarter of their divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints in Candlestick Park.
Right guard Adam Snyder is taking the snaps at center in Goodwin's absence and taking Snyder's spot at right guard is backup offensive lineman Chilo Rachal, a former USC Trojan. The offensive line has done a good job at protecting Alex Smith so far as they've only given up one sack and two quarterback hits. The 49ers are currently holding on to a 17-14 lead late in the second quarter and have the ball. Goodman sat out for a series but returned to the field before the second quarter came to an end.
After a vicious hit from Donte Whitner, Saints running back Pierre Thomas, who fumbled on the play, appears to be done for the day. According to Jeff Duncan, the Saints beat writer from The Times-Picayune, he was congratulating his teammates on the season before heading into the locker room.
Jeff DuncanIt looks like Pierre Thomas' day is done. He's making the rounds congratulating teammates on the sideline. Now headed to locker room. 27 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto
Thomas was the second-leading rusher for the Saints during the regular season behind Darren Sproles with 562 yards and five touchdowns. His absence will likely open the door for more playing time for Chris Ivory.
Here's another look at Whitner's hit:
It isn't just good defense that has given the San Francisco 49ers a 14-0 lead over the New Orleans Saints after the first quarter in Candlestick Park, it's great offense as well. After stopping the potent Saints offense on two straight drives, Alex Smith was able to lead his offense to the first score of the game when he found tight end Vernon Davis for a 49-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead over New Orleans.
After the touchdown, Davis went to the stands to get congratulated by the fans and then did his best Jimmy Graham impression.
Goldson brought the ball back all the way to the Saints' four-yard line where Alex Smith found Michael Crabtree just three plays later on a slant in the end zone, giving the Niners a 14-point lead.
The Saints weren't able to get anything going at all in the first quarter and the hole kept getting deeper. Courtney Roby fumbled the following kickoff and the Niners recovered, setting themselves up in great field position for the second quarter.
On the first drive of the game in Candlestick Park, New Orleans Saints starting tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Pierre Thomas were sent to the locker room after taking big hits. Both hits were made by San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner.
Graham went down first as Whitner was in coverage and knocked the ball loose from Graham's hands. Graham landed awkwardly and limped off the field. Whitner was called for pass interference on the play.
Graham was sent to the locker room shortly after.
The Saints continued to drive down the field. On a third-and-six play from the 49ers' seven-yard line, Drew Brees threw a short pass to Thomas who turned up field and was immediately met by Whitner who dealt out a vicious hit which forced Thomas to fumble.
The 49ers were able to recover the fumble at the two-yard line and Thomas was sent to the locker room after Graham. Both players' statuses are unknown but Graham did return to the field on the Saints' next drive.
The San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints take the field in Candlestick Park in 90 minutes for their Divisional Round matchup in the 2011 NFL playoffs, but each team will do so without some key players.
For the 49ers, tight end Delanie Walker is inactive due to a jaw injury. Joining Walker on the inactive list are quarterback Scott Tolzien, wide receiver Joe Hastings, cornerback Shawntae Spencer, offensive linemen Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person and defensive tackle Ian Williams.
For the Saints, the biggest name on their inactive list is wide receiver Lance Moore, who missed last week's game against the Lions as well. Moore is out due to a hamstring injury and taking his place will likely be Adrian Arrington. Along with Moore, cornerback Leigh Torrence, linebacker Nate Bussey, guard Eric Olsen, tight ends Tory Humphreyand John Gilmore and defensive end Turk McBride are inactive for today's game.
The San Francisco 49ers are set to host the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the 2011-2012 NFL playoffs and they couldn't ask for a more beautiful day for a home playoff game. There is little to no chance of rain and there will be virtually no wind blowing through Candlestick Park.
According to the Weather Channel, it is going to be sunny and 64 degrees with a 10 percent chance of rain (which turns to zero percent chance by 3 p.m.) with a slight two mph breeze blowing from the North West. By the time the game should be coming to an end, the temperature is predicted to be 62 degrees with a four mph breeze. If the forecast is correct, and we know that sometime they're not, the weather should be about as good as you could possibly ask for in an outdoor January playoff game.
The San Francisco 49ers will kickoff the Divisional Round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs on Saturday afternoon as they welcome the New Orleans Saints into Candlestick Park. The fearless predictions have been made, the analysts have taken a look at every angle of the game and the players are ready to go. Here is a look at everything you will need to get ready for game day.
Start Time: Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. from San Francisco, which is 4:30 p.m. on the east coast.
TV Coverage: FOX will broadcast the game nationally, with Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston in the booth and Tony Siragusa reporting from the sidelines.
Radio Coverage: The Bone 107.7 FM and KNBR 680/1050 AM will have the game in the Bay Area, with Ted Robinson and Eric Davis calling the action. Westwood One will have the game nationally with Kevin Kugler, Mark Malone and Scott Kaplan on the call.
Betting Line: The 49ers are favored by 3.5 points, with the over/under set at 47 points.
Weather Report: It will be a beautiful day for football, with the forecast projecting sunny skies, no rain and temperatures in the 60's during the game.
The San Francisco 49ers will host the New Orleans Saints on Saturday afternoon at Candlestick Park in the second round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. This will be the first postseason game for the 49ers since 2002 and it is a safe bet that nearly everyone in the city will be paying rapt attention to the game.
It's also a safe bet that traffic on the way to Candlestick Point will be a veritable madhouse. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has been kind enough to update their website with some specific information on how to reach the park via public transportation.
There will be several express shuttles for you to take advantage of:
From the light rail: T Third to Gilman/Paul, then 87 Candlestick Shuttle
From BART: 75X express service from Balboa Park BART/Muni Station
Bus: 77X express service from the Van Ness corridor
Bus: 78X express service from the Park Presidio/19th Avenue corridor
Muni has also provided a map of these routes and the various express shuttles:
Hopefully everyone will find their way safely to the stadium or their chosen viewing location and will be able to cheer their Niners on to victory.
Although the final injury report before Saturday's game came out early in the afternoon on Friday, Kevin Lynch of the SF Gate had an interesting take on rookie cornerback Chris Culliver missing Friday's practice for the 49ers.
Rookie Culliver is the most concerning, after participating in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, Culliver did not take part in Friday's walk through. That might be due to his illness. The 49ers need all the cornerbacks possible for Saturday's game against the pass-happy Saints.
It is true that the secondary will need to be operating at as close to full strength as possible with the potent air attack of New Orleans. It will be worth keeping an eye on whether Culliver ends up on the inactives list before kickoff on Saturday.
The 49ers and Saints square off on Saturday afternoon in a matchup for a tough, physical 49ers defense and a high-flying Saints offense. The 49ers and Saints did not get to 13-3 and this playoff matchup without a little bit of talent. That provides us with some incredible matchups to follow.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area broke down some of the most pertinent matchups to watch. He focused on two 49ers defensive matchups and one 49ers offensive matchup. On defense, he suggested LB Patrick Willis versus TE Jimmy Graham and LB/DE Aldon Smith versus OT Jermon Bushrod were the two of the most significant matchups. On offense, he pointed to RB Frank Gore versus SS Roman Harper.
Maiocco pointed to the pass protection issues with Harper as well as the rushing game. Harper leads the Saints in sacks, but also is pivotal in their rush defense. I would actually argue that fullback Bruce Miller factors into this matchup as much as anybody. In pass protection he and Gore will both have plenty of work. However, in the running game, the 49ers would love to see Bruce Miller getting into the second level to get blocks on Harper and other second level defenders.
Miller has been an upgrade over Moran Norris in part because he has had the athleticism to get into the second level and spring some longer Gore runs. The 49ers best chance to win this game is control the clock and dominate in the rushing game. They can win in other ways, but this combined with their defense and special teams is their bread and butter. Bruce Miller's role in this game could prove pivotal.
The Niners host the Saints this Saturday in the biggest game in... well, years, but will have to do so with a few lingering injuries to worry about. Still not practicing on Friday were CB Chris Culliver and TE Delanie Walker, and WR Ted Ginn Jr., DT Ray McDonald, and WR Kyle Williams were all limited participants. They are all listed as questionable, though it's more likely the latter three will see the field.
Here is the official injury and practice reports for both teams heading into the weekend.
Status For the Game:
Questionable - CB Chris Culliver (knee, illness), WR Ted Ginn (ankle), DT Ray McDonald (hamstring), TE Delanie Walker (jaw), WR Kyle Williams (concussion)
Practice Report for Friday:
Did Not Participate In Practice - CB Chris Culliver (knee, illness), TE Delanie Walker (jaw)
Limited Participation in Practice - WR Ted Ginn (ankle), DT Ray McDonald (hamstring), WR Kyle Williams (concussion)
As for the Saints, they'll be without TE John Gilmore and WR Lance Moore. LB Jonathan Casillas was limited on Friday and is listed as Questionable. S Roman Harper and WR Robert Meachem were both limited and are officially listed as probable.
San Francisco 49ers Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media on Thursday about how his offense is preparing for the week, and what the week has been for him and his players heading into their meeting withe the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.
Q: Jim, what would you ideally like to see out of your offense on Saturday?
Harbaugh: "A lot of things, a lot of things. Score more points than the Saints, number one. Execute, move the ball, not turn it over. And then quite a few other things."
Harbaugh spoke of the importance of home-field advantage:
Q: Jim, this team worked really hard to get home-field advantage for the playoffs. When you're taking a group, many of whom have never played in the postseason, into a playoff scenario for the first time, how important is it to have that home field where everything stays the same during the week, the preparation, they're going to their own stadium, how important is that going to be for them?
Harbaugh: "Well, I think it's an advantage. They work very hard for it. They earned it. And they get the benefit of that. So, it's not to say that teams don't win on the road in the playoffs, because historically they do. But, I think our team goes into this game confident and bold and with a great amount of respect for the New Orleans Saints team as well. Great amount of respect for who they are, what they do, and what they're capable of."
And about the playoff atmosphere around the team:
Q: Are you focused and loose?
Harbaugh: "I am. I feel like I am. But you know what, it just never really matters that much how I am, or just a coach. Just going to be standing over there on the sideline. To me it's the players. Where are they at in their preparation, their understanding of this game plan, and what their morale is, how they feel physically. If they feel good, I feel good."
Q: But don't they take cues from you? If you seem tense and uptight wouldn't they be?
Harbaugh: "I kind of go off them. Like I said, I ask guys all the time, how do you feel? And they say, well how do you feel coach? And I say, well how do you feel? You feel good, I feel good. That's kind of how I look at it. Doesn't matter how I feel, it's how they feel."
Next Harbaugh went on to discuss Alex Smith and how he is heading into this matchup:
Q: But how does QB Alex Smith feel? Alex is pretty clear he's not in it to out-stat Saints QB Drew Brees. That's not the point of this. How important of a step was that do you think for any quarterback, particularly Alex? That it's not you versus the other guy, it's not about you putting up 300 yard games. Just win the football game.
Harbaugh: "How important is that? I think that's very important. I think there's a confidence there. There's a confidence in your own ability. There's a confidence in your team and confidence in your preparation and your plan, and again, your teammates. That you're part of it. You're part of it. You're a cog. And he's a big one. The biggest one on the team because he handles the ball every single down. And it's no different on our team than it is on other teams. He does the most out there. He's got a lot on his plate and probably by the nature of the position, he touches the ball every single play. And I think that it's not a feeling, it's a confident feeling in your team that you don't have to do more than what the team asks you to do."
The team may have some offensive weapons/plays yet to be unveiled, which Harbaugh spoke about:
Q: Do you think there is a risk of trying to do too much in a game plan for a playoff game?
Harbaugh: "I think every game is different. Every game has its own separate identity. Its own season almost. 16 game plans, 16 different games. Now this is 17. Our approach to it as a coaching staff was to try to get to know the Saints as well as we possibly could. Do the best job that we could of putting together a game plan, in all three phases, that our players would be the most successful in. I feel confident in that. Also, in the fact that our players have understood and practiced it. Combed through it. Troubleshot it pretty thoroughly. Feel confident. Feel like our players can therefore go out and just play. Not have to think as much. There's a lot of thinking, there's no question about it, but when they know it, they practice it, then they can play and react at a fast tempo."
Q: Former Saint C Jonathan Goodwin brings some playoff experience with Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. How important is that to this team where you have so many guys who have never been in a playoff game before?
Harbaugh: "I don't know. We haven't really made that monumental of a deal out of it. Who's been in the playoffs, who hasn't? Is that a good thing, is that a bad thing? How much does playoff experience count? We've got guys that had never been there, that's for sure. But, maybe that's a good thing. They haven't been there. It's like kids that haven't played a game in a long time. They're excited to do it. Like I said, I think where we're at right now mindset that they can go into this game confident and bold and they're ready to play. They're ready to go."
Just about all of the previews for the San Francisco 49ers Divisional Round showdown against the New Orleans Saints have focused on the defensive side of the ball, at least when it comes to the 49ers. San Francisco's defense is one of the best in the league, and arguably the best defense that the Saints have faced this season.
On Saturday, the 49ers will see if "offense wins games, defense wins championships," is still true to any extent. The Saints won a Super Bowl on the back of their great offense, while the 49ers won their titles with some of the best offensive players in the game (though the 49ers championship defenses would steal the lunch money of the offensive-minded teams' defenses over the last decade).
Instead of Joe Montana, it's Patrick Willis. Instead of Jerry Rice, it's Justin Smith. Is it sacrilege to put those names together? Honestly, it doesn't feel like it. Rice and Montana are two of the top five best players in league history, but Willis is well on his way to being the best inside linebacker the league has ever seen. Smith, to his credit, is probably one of the top ten most dependable players in league history with the way he conducts himself. The guy does everything and on top of that, he's incredibly clutch. He's won games single-handedly.
This 49ers defense does some things better than the great 49ers defenses of old, too. Not everything, but a lot of things. We're getting a little off course here. The question is much more than "can the 49ers defense beat the Saints offense?" it's more like "can a defensive-minded team still win the Super Bowl?" A victory over the Saints won't guarantee a victory in the big game, but it probably does validate the question, considering the Saints could be considered the league's best offense.
The big injury the San Francisco 49ers have to worry about going into Saturday's contest with the New Orleans Saints is Delanie Walker, who is out for the game with his jaw injury. Walker is one of the most underrated players on the San Francisco roster for his versatility to block and occasionally pass-catch, as he forces defenses to key in on where he is on the field and make sure someone has an eye on him. Taking him out makes it harder for San Francisco to be versatile in their offensive options and means they'll really have to try and grind this one out.
The other injuries to 49ers left them limited, although they were able to practice. Chris Culliver has a knee issue, Ray McDonald continues to suffer from a hamstring issue, Ted Ginn still is struggling with his ankle, and Kyle Williams has a concussion that he's been dealing with for some time. But all look like they're aiming to be playing this weekend regardless.
The Saints have the following injuries.
The folks over at Bovada (formerly Bodog) have some fun prop bets for you to enjoy for the upcoming matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints. But as always, chose your bets wisely.
New Orleans at San Francisco
Passing Yards – Drew Brees (NO)
Total TD Passes – Drew Brees (NO)
Combined Yards in the game – Darren Sproles (NO)
Receiving Yards – Marques Colston (NO)
Will Jimmy Graham (NO) score a TD in the game?
Passing Yards - Alex Smith (SF)
Rushing Yards – Frank Gore (SF)
Receiving Yards – Michael Crabtree (SF)
Receiving Yards – Vernon Davis (SF)
Will the 49ers allow a Rushing TD in the game?
Who will have more turnovers in the game?
New Orleans Saints EVEN
San Francisco 49ers -130
2012 NFL Playoffs - Which Conference will win the Super Bowl?
2012 NFL Playoffs - How many road teams will win this weekend?
2012 NFL Playoffs - How many road teams will win this weekend?
Over 1½ (+160)
Under 1½ (-200)
2012 NFL Playoffs - Will any game go to Overtime this weekend?
2012 NFL Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers Playoff Progress
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round 1/2
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game 5/2
Super Bowl Runner Up
Super Bowl Champion
2012 NFL Playoffs - New Orleans Saints Playoff Progress
Eliminated in NFC Divisional Round 5/2
Eliminated in NFC Championship Game 1/1
Super Bowl Runner Up
Super Bowl Champion
Divisonal Playoff Round Stat Leaders
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEKEND - Who will record the most Passing Yards?
Drew Brees (NO) QB
Aaron Rodgers (GB) QB 5/2
Tom Brady (NE) QB
Eli Manning (NYG) QB 5/1
Joe Flacco (BAL) QB 10/1
Alex Smith (SF) QB
Tim Tebow (DEN) QB 18/1
T.J. Yates (HOU)
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEKEND - Who will record the most Rushing Yards?
Ray Rice (BAL) RB
Arian Foster (HOU) RB 5/2
Frank Gore (SF) RB
Willis McGahee (DEN) RB 4/1
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEKEND - Who will record the most Receiving Yards?
Wes Welker (NE) WR 7/2
Marques Colston (NO) WR 4/1
Rob Gronkowski (NE) TE 11/2
Hakeem Nicks (NYG) WR 11/2
Victor Cruz (NYG) WR 11/2
Jordy Nelson (GB) WR 7/1
Demaryius Thomas (DEN) WR 7/1
Andre Johnson (HOU) WR 15/2
Anquan Boldin (BAL) WR 12/1
Michael Crabtree (SF) WR 15/1
Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter wants you to know three things about the meeting between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints coming up this Saturday that may very well play a large part in who moves on in the second season:
The Saints have never won a road playoff game.
This is a fact. The Saints are 0-4 all-time on the road in the playoffs (not counting the Super Bowl), and are 0-2 since 2006 when the Drew Brees/Sean Payton marriage began. If history wants to repeat itself, this is the kind of history that hopefully does so.
This is football's version of the Irresistible Force meeting the Immovable Object.
The Saints are second in the NFL in scoring at 34.2 ppg. the 49ers are second in points allowed, only 14.3 a game. The Saints were sixth in rushing yards at 132.9 yards per game, while the Niners were first in rush defense, allowing only 77.2 yards per game. Starting to see a trend here?
The Saints are going to get off their buses blitzing.
The Saints blitzing the 49ers out of house and home this preseason has been brought up a lot, but the fact is that was the preseason, not the postseason. Big, big difference there.
Nevertheless, the 49ers still allowed 44 sacks this season, sixth worse in the NFL, and will have their issues with the exotic packages and blitzes brought forth by New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. But all those sacks have made Alex Smith more comfortable within pressure as his 96.3 passer rating against the blitz, third behind only Aaron Rodgers (131.4) and Tom Brady (110.9). Eight of his 17 touchdown passes, as well as only one of his five interceptions, were against the blitz this season.
It really is impossible to tell just how the San Francisco 49ers will look offensively on Saturday against the New Orleans Saints. The only constant will be running back Frank Gore, who will be eyeing a big game against a defense that has been great at times, but not-so-great for much more of said time. With a potentially out or hampered Roman Harper, Gore's importance increases heavily.
But Alex Smith and the passing game are wild cards. Could they have their best game this season? They sure can, considering the state of the Saints defense from week-to-week. But who will contribute to that? Who will be the focal point? There are plenty of players that can get open and get things done with the ball in their hands, but the 49ers haven't established much offensive identity through 16 games under Jim Harbaugh.
Only two of the options are really "solid" receiving targets, at least as far as being proven is concerned, but there are subtle threats that could be huge for the 49ers on Saturday. Kyle Williams could have a big game if he's active, but again, he's a wild card because he's still mostly unknown and the injury. Is he a potential target? Yes. Is he a known commodity? Not at all.
Ted Ginn Jr. remains an option as always, but he's still inconsistent. Can the 49ers count on him to make a game-changing catch? Probably not, but it's possible. There's been games where Ginn isn't targeted at all, and games in which the 49ers throw to him several times in a row. Even Michael Crabtree isn't all-that known yet, despite putting together some solid performances in recent weeks.
All of these guys have awesome tools as receivers, but we don't know how dependable they are and more than that, we don't know how the 49ers want to use them. We know what both defenses can do, and we know what Drew Brees can do with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston, Chris Ivory and Jimmy Graham. We know how he's been targeting them, with more than one season to back up those numbers. In short, a defensive-minded 15-13 win wouldn't be surprising with the 49ers penchant for field goals and strong defense, but neither would a slightly more high-scoring effort with the 49ers on top.
As the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints prepare for their matchup this Saturday at Candlestick Park, both were without a key offensive player as Niners tight end Delanie Walker sat out of practice Wednesday, as did Saints receiver Lance Moore.
Walker has a broken jaw, but was not counted out this week by Coach Harbaugh in his Monday press conference. He's an important facet to a lot of their offensive schemes, but if he can't suit up will be replaced by veteran Justin Peele and possibly Nate Byham as well. Receivers Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams were limited in practice Wednesday, as did cornerback Chris Culliver and defensive tackle Ray McDonald.
Did Not Participate In Practice
TE Delanie Walker (jaw)
Limited Participation in Practice
CB Chris Culliver (knee), WR Ted Ginn (ankle), DT Ray McDonald (hamstring), WR Kyle Williams (concussion)
Did Not Participate In Practice
TE John Gilmore (toe), S Roman Harper (ankle), WR Lance Moore (hamstring)
Limited Participation in Practice
Full Participation in Practice
WR Robert Meachem (knee)
The San Francisco 49ers may have caught somewhat of a break, as the New Orleans Saints took to the practice field on Wednesday without one of the better players on defense. According to Jeff Duncan on Twiter, safety Roman Harper was not at practice on Wednesday with an ankle injury. Harper injured his ankle against the Saints' dominating win over the Detroit Lions.
Him missing practice is significant, as Duncan notes. Harper is one of the key players to New Orleans' run defense, a unit that will need to step up against the rushing attack of San Francisco's Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. New Orleans has had plenty of defensive struggles this season, and if Harper can't go or is limited, Gore is exactly the kind of back that can find that weakness and exploit it.
However, it doesn't necessarily mean Harper will miss the game, as noted below:
Harper is a tough hombre. I'll be surprised if he doesn't play thru the injury. But it could undoubtedly affect him on the field.
Gore is the kind of player who has always been able to find a weakness and exploit it. He manages to break through the smallest of holes, and if Harper isn't on top of his game, Gore could break one of the huge runs he's known for.
The San Francisco 49ers were a franchise that struggled for much of it's early existence, exploding out of nowhere in the 80's with four Super Bowls, vaulting itself into 'legendary' status within the NFL. They snuck up on the league with something new and a savvy coach, going from the basement to the penthouse is only two seasons. And as Sports Illustrated's Ann Killion points out, could be somewhat like what the current 49ers are doing right now.
This year's Niners aren't much different that those early Walsh teams, seemingly coming out of the shadowas to rise to dominance behind a new, talented young coach. Only this time it's not the West Coast offense, it's the lock down defense getting it done for San Francisco, but that same winning attitude resonates with both. 49ers of old are taking notice too, like former tight end and receiver of 'The Catch" in 1982 Dwight Clark:
"I just wanted Harbaugh to get people talking about the 49ers again," Clark said this week. "Nationally no one was paying attention to us. We were like Cleveland. I was hoping he could jump-start things a little."
Jump-start? Harbaugh has super-charged this franchise thus far. But this team hasn't experienced a playoff game in a decade, many players never at all, though Harbaugh's cool-headed demeanor will hopefully quell much of the anxiety:
"It's difficult," said San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. "Especially the position we're in. We've never been in a playoff before. It should be big for us."
It will be big for them, especially if history feels like repeating itself.
Back in 1981, the first year Walsh took the 49ers to the playoffs, nobody took them seriously that year either. Even after a week 6 beat down of the Cowboys, they were left out of the highlights on Monday Night Football that week, which Walsh saw as disrespect to the 49ers.
The Niners would head to the postseason that year and take out the New York Giants at the 'Stick 38-24 in the divisional round, then beat the Cowboys on 'The Catch' in the NFC title game, making NFL history in the making. Oh yeah, and they won the Super Bowl.
Something similar this year would suffice.
The San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints square off in Saturday's NFC Divisional Round matchup in what will be the 72nd meeting between the two teams. The Saints and 49ers were division rivals for many years before the latest round of realignment moved the Saints to the NFC South. This will mark the first time they have met in the playoffs. Here is a rundown of their matchup history.
Matchups: 71 - First postseason matchup
Series Record: 49ers lead series 45-24-2
49ers Home Record vs. Saints: 49ers lead series 22-11-2
First Meeting: 10/22/67, 49ers win 27-13, at SF
Last Meeting: 9/20/10, Saints win 25-22, at SF
Current Streak: Lost 6
Longest 49ers Win Streak: 8 - (9/15/73 - 11/27/77)
Longest Saints Win Streak: 6 - (10/20/02 - Present)
Most 49ers Points: 42 (11/22/93): 42-7 at SF
Most Saints Points: 43 (11/23/69): 43-38 at NO
49ers Shutouts: 5, Last on 1/6/02, 38-0, at NO
Saints Shutouts: None
The 49ers and Saints also have some connections on their rosters and with their coaching staffs. The most prominent player connection is center Jonathan Goodwin, who played for New Orleans from 2006 to 2010. The most prominent coaching connection is Vic Fangio having worked as linebackers coach from 1986 to 1994 with their famous "Dome Patrol." 49ers wide receiver coach John Morton also spent some time in New Orleans in 2006 as passing game coordinator/offensive assistant. Here is a rundown of all the connections between the teams:
SAINTS-NOR CAL CONNECTIONS
One of the main and most compelling storylines of Saturday's Saints vs 49ers matchup at Candlestick Park is the extreme differences in offensive styles between the two teams. Drew Brees and the Saints set NFL passing records this season and have a high-octane, high-scoring offense. Conversely, San Francisco wins with ball-control, hard running, and toughness on offense and as opposed to Brees' record setting season, Alex Smith actually had the least amount of touchdown passes of any starter that played in all 16 games this year. Of course, he also had the least amount of turnovers.
Here's what he had to say in Tuesday's presser, in the run up to this weekend's big game, regarding the differences between the two offensive schemes:
"You can say what you want. A lot of different ways to win games in this league. Obviously offensively, they're doing a lot of great things right now. Record-setting offense. It's kind of what you aspire to get to, no question, offensively. To be able to put up those kinds of numbers, do what they're doing. They've been in it a long time. Doing it at a really high level, no question. It's kind of for you guys to write about, to talk about the differences and differences of style. Whatever you want to call it. It is what it is. It still comes down to scoring more points than the other team and that's what we're looking to do."
So will the Niners be making any adjustments based on their upcoming, high-scoring opponent?
"We're going to play our game. We're not going to be somebody we're not. We're going to continue to do what we do. We've done it all year."
That said, Smith acknowledged that in some situations, and particularly when the Saints are blitzing, the Niners may have some opportunities to eschew their run-first identity and uncharacteristically strike down the field.
"No question. That's kind of the nature of the game when teams pressure a lot. Obviously you've got some chances to make plays. They're good at it. They've been doing it so long. They know where they're vulnerable. I think the guys in the secondary do a great job with it. They know where they're vulnerable. They do a great job of trying to take away those big plays as much as possible. So, we're going to have to be on top of it, no question."
For the New Orleans Saints, they're riding high with all of the credit heading into Saturday's matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. But credit doesn't equal confidence, and it can easily be argued that the 49ers have much, much more confidence, in spite of the huge problems that Drew Brees and the Saints offense present for any team in the league, let alone the 49ers.
The popular consensus seems to be that the Saints will throw the ball all over the 49ers defense and score at will. Everyone who is picking the 49ers to win suggest that said defense will assault the aforementioned Brees until he's a big bundle of nerves. Either scenario is certainly possible, but one thing does remain a constant in both predictions: the opinion that Brees will have a big game throwing the ball.
Immediately after the Saints wasted the Detroit Lions, my personal Twitter blew up with people saying "Brees may have a big day, but he won't put all the points on the board." And that's something that's very likely. Just about nothing will stop Brees from throwing for big yardage - it's almost a given at this point. But the 49ers aren't going take it sitting down. Their red zone defense is among the best in the league, and they've allowed fewer touchdowns than any team in the NFL.
And really, that's the point of focus here: don't break. Brees can throw for whatever he wants. 49ers quarterback Alex Smith agrees, as it happens:
What do you think the chances are of you out-throwing Drew Brees?
"I have no idea. I don't care. I really don't care. I'm looking to outscore him. He can throw for however many yards he wants to."
That's exactly what 49ers fans and supporters are saying.
One of the biggest parts of the 49ers' identity and a large part of the reason they went 13-3, won the West and locked up the NFC's 2nd seed, is their exceedingly tough defense. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio has been a boon for the team and has turned a unit with a lot of talent and potential into one of the elite defenses in the NFL. The Niners, this week, face their toughest test of their season as they host the high-octane offense of the New Orleans Saints.
Fangio had some interesting things to say at Tuesday's press conference about the upcoming matchup.
"Well, the Saints offense, as you all know, is operating at a high efficiency right now. They've got everything going for them right now. They've got a great quarterback who's got great weapons to throw to. He's got a great offensive line in front of him. The guy's only been sacked 24 times in the regular season, and that's off of 700 times they've thrown the ball, dropped back the pass.
So, that's impressive in and of itself, and to top it off, they've got a great scheme. They really give you a lot of offense to prepare for. You never quite know what you're going to get from them and they run the ball. Everybody talks about their passing game and justifiably so, but they run the ball. I think they're rated fourth in the league in the run. So, it'll be an all-day sucker for us. We've got to come ready to go."
As Fangio points out, New Orleans is one of the more underrated rushing teams in the NFL, as people become distracted by their ridiculously efficient passing attack. While San Francisco is built as well as any team in the league to rein in that rushing attack, they'll be challenged through the air, particularly with Saints TE Jimmy Graham. The 49ers linebacker and defensive back units will have a tough test this weekend. Fangio noted:
"Well, that's a big challenge no matter who's covering him [Graham]. Could be a linebacker, could be a DB, safety, or corner. And he's a rare, rare guy at tight end. He's 6'6", runs very well. He's caught I think 99 balls in the regular season. So, he's a big part part of their offense, and his size and speed and range and his catching ability is a tough assignment for anybody. But, that's what it is this time of year. You're going against great teams, great players. Somebody's going to have to man up and cover somebody at some point."
No nonsense and true as ever. Good teams step up in the playoffs and that's what the Niners will have to do if they want to beat the Saints. Graham, obviously, isn't the only threat for the 49er defense, and another main weapon to look out for is the shifty former-Charger, Darren Sproles.
"He adds a lot. He's a special player. It's almost as if - I can't believe they got him for the cheap price that they got him for replacing [Former Saints RB] Reggie Bush. I think if it was the NBA, the commissioner might have stepped in and stopped that move. But, he's a talented player. He's extremely quick, extremely fast. He's got a great working knowledge with Brees that goes back to their San Diego days. They worked all offseason together. He's a weapon. And that's the most glaring thing when you look at this offense is they have weapons everywhere. It's hard to say, hey if we stop this guy we'll win this game, or we'll play great on defense. They've got a lot of guys we've got to stop. You've got to stop their offense."
One of the things that Saints coach Sean Payton takes pride in, is showing a lot of personnel formations and looks, and this can make it hard for teams to prepare. When asked if he's faced any team that does it as much as the Saints, Fangio had this to say:
"Probably not, and one of the reasons they do it is because they have versatile players. Graham can be a receiver. Sproles can be a receiver. They've got versatile guys out there and he's using them."
Great defense against a great offense. If you're not looking forward to this game, you're simply not a fan of football.
While the San Francisco 49ers are expecting some of their offensive weapons in Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams back in action on Saturday against the New Orleans Saints, the team is now expected to be without tight end Delanie Walker. CSN Bay Area reported on Tuesday that Walker underwent an examination on Tuesday and that the team will re-evaluate him on Monday.
At that point, they'll know whether or not the 49ers will have him back in action, not to mention whether or not they'll need him back in action, as Saturday's game is for the Divisional Round of the 2012 NFL Playoffs, and there could be no more football for San Francisco for some time if they don't pick up the win.
Still, it's significant to note that it's going to be that long for another evaluation. Rather, it's significant to note that he's already been ruled out for Saturday's game. Walker has been a prolific weapon in the 49ers' offense over the last few seasons, and has been a coaching favorite due to the matchup problems he presents going up against linebackers in pass coverage. He slowed down a lot this season, but that has more to do with his evolution as a blocker, and his receiving ability still has to be accounted for on every play.
Walker will not be placed on injured reserve, at least not yet, leaving the door open for a potential return if the 49ers make it to the NFC Championship, or perhaps the Super Bowl. Walker sustained a fractured jaw in two places against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 24. Justin Peelle will be the guy to take over in his absence.
The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to host the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the NFC playoffs. The Saints will arrive at Candlestick Park on Saturday with a powerful offense in tow, but they will face off against a defense that was the very definition of "elite" during the 2011 regular season.
But the young offensive line of the 49ers also figures to play a very key role in the game. If the Niners are able to contain Drew Brees and his potent New Orleans offense, the Niners will still need to get points on the board. It will be up to running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, among others, to make sure that the Niners get into field goal range for David Akers. Or even better, to the red zone and beyond. None of that offense will be possible, however, without the o-line performing at their very best.
Cam Inman of the Oakland Tribune posted an article on Friday night talking about the strong offensive line of the 49ers and how they found their identity over the course of the season. The group of young players has matured and evolved over the course of the long season, yielding Pro Browl starters and alternates.
In the last game of the regular season, the offensive line of the Niners was charged with no holding penalties...indeed, no penalties of any kind. In a close, high-scoring game, especially one on the road, that sort of focus and maturity cannot be overstated.
It is clear that the 49ers will go into the game as prepared as they can be. Tackle Joe Staley had this to say:
"What doesn't get talked enough about is how you prepare off the field with film study, identifying blitzes and schemes."
The coaching staff has enjoyed watching the offensive line grow together and improve. The linemen will have at least one more chance on Saturday to make their team proud.
The San Francisco 49ers watched the New Orleans Saints put on a show in their first-round game against the Detroit Lions, setting offensive yardage records under the leadership of quarterback Drew Brees. Now the Niners will prepare for Saturday, when the Saints come to town for the second round of playoffs.
The key in the game between the 49ers and the Saints will be how the Saints react to the dominant -- at times, overwhelming -- defense of the Niners. San Francisco leaned heavily on their defense to make their impressive run in the 2011 regular season, building their reputation around their effectiveness at limiting points and ground yards. Now San Francisco will lean on their defense yet again, as they hope to stop the over-the-top air attack of Brees and the Saints.
Jeffri Chadiha at ESPN has a great Q&A column up regarding the upcoming NFC playoff games. He takes time to address how the New Orleans offense matches up with the defense of the Niners. Here's what he has to say:
1. Can the Saints play as well in San Francisco as they did at home all season?
No. As explosive as New Orleans was in Saturday's 45-28 win over Detroit -- when the Saints amassed an NFL postseason-record 626 yards -- they won't have two things working in their favor next weekend. They won't have the comfortable confines of the Superdome (where they've been unbeaten this season) and they won't be facing a beaten-up, beleaguered secondary. The 49ers ranked second in the NFL in points allowed (14.3), fourth in yards allowed (308.1) and they have playmakers at every level of their defense. What also has to concern the Saints are the problems Detroit's pass rush created for quarterback Drew Brees during a surprisingly disappointing first half in that contest. Though Brees believes his offense will be ready -- "I feel like our offense is built for any conditions," he said after the Detroit game -- the Lions still had him backpedaling and double-pumping often enough to think they could've pulled an upset. The 49ers have the potential to produce such chaos all game.
If the Lions can have Brees looking out of sorts in the first half of a playoff game at home, it's likely that the Niners defense will give the QB fits at Candlestick Park. It's also worth noting that the Saints may need to rely less on their star running back Darren Sproles in Saturday's game. If there's one thing that the Niners excel at, it's stopping the ground attack.
The San Francisco 49ers are going to have trouble keeping up with a high octane offense in the 2012 NFL Playoffs - such a statement is about as close to fact as you can get when speculating about a team's ability or inability to perform against another team. Thus, the key to winning in the playoffs, specifically on Saturday against the New Orleans Saints and their somewhat ridiculous offense with somewhat ridiculous quarterback Drew Brees, is to chip away at its foundations rather than try and keep pace with it.
If the less-ridiculous Alex Smith and less-ridiculous 49ers offense try and match Brees and his army of ball-catching minions, the results will be laughable. San Francisco need not get antsy and start flinging the ball around like they're Tim Tebow or something. No, the Saints are just like many of the opponents the 49ers have faced this year, and as such, the gameplan should remain the same.
Said gameplan being something not entirely unlike "good defense and a hope and prayer on offense."
While that's probably over-simplifying things and not giving the 49ers enough credit, the point hammers home where it should: just keep playing your game. All the buzz has been about the 49ers' offense in comparison to the Saints, and not about one of the league's best offenses up against one of the league's best defenses. No, maybe the 49ers can't produce like Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are able to, but Detroit's defense also just got torched for what seemed like several thousand yards by Matt Flynn.
Defensively, the 49ers have a very good chance to chip away at the Saints on multiple fronts. Almost all of the keys to winning this game fall on the 49ers' defense (and special teams, of course), and there are several arguments in regards to a potential 49ers victory on Saturday.
It all starts with the fact that the game is being played at Candlestick Park. While Brees isn't going to suddenly become this convulsing mass, vomiting footballs into the hands of defensive backs on every play while he struggles to grasp the basic fundamentals of football and exactly why there are 11 angry men trying to rip him limb from limb, the difference is and has been noticeable in the past.
All the better if the 49ers can get pressure on Brees in his already-uncomfortable playing situation. Justin Smith is ... Justin Smith, while Aldon Smith should see significant time. While Parys Haralson has been much better this season than anyone has given him credit for, this game will quickly require Aldon's ability to disrupt much more than Haralson's ability to contain. Expect Aldon to be used creatively and aggressively. San Francisco needs a way to shake the unshakable, and Aldon was drafted for that very reason.
Sure, the 49ers have been prone to the defensive breakdown here or there, but they're also infinitely better than Detroit at forcing the other side into offensive breakdowns. Turnovers have been plentiful, and Brees is not immune to throwing bad passes. Heck, there were multiple points in which the Lions sort of watched potential interceptions fly by their faces into the hands of players who had no business being open.
On top of that, the Saints have become more than a one-dimensional offense with the emergence of their running game this season. Will they be able to run on the 49ers? Not likely. San Francisco's run defense eventually did allow a rushing touchdown, but they came with players resting against the St. Louis Rams and immediately following a special teams turnover against the Seattle Seahawks. Their rush defense is scary good.
Missed tackles probably won't be a problem, either. Even the guys who are somewhat unknown like Haralson and Ray McDonald are very sound tacklers. Too many times, Pierre Thomas had a rush, was almost tackled, and picked up the first down or another five yards before finally being brought down. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman aren't likely to make such mistakes.
Will Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and the rest of the secondary have their hands full with the Saints receivers? You bet, and Brees will likely have a lot of yards. But the 49ers aren't likely to give up touchdowns once the Saints reach the red zone, and players like Sproles and Jimmy Graham will have trouble beating Willis and Bowman like they have been beating other players this season.
This is the best offense the 49ers have faced this season. It's also the best defense the Saints have faced this season.
The San Francisco 49ers have their own divisional playoff matchup to worry about, but they have to be pleased that the team they would potentially face in the championship round should be battered up after a tough contest in Lambeau Field.
The New York Giants walked through the Atlanta Falcons to move onto a rematch with the Green Bay Packers. New York played Green Bay close the first time around, and with their defense starting to improve, they can probably give the Packers a run for their money and score a huge upset.
Obviously, the 49ers have to win their own football game on Saturday (and it's no gimmee against the New Orleans Saints) before they start caring about the result of the other contest. But you figure San Francisco would like to host the NFC Championship Game, so they'll be interested very much in whether the Giants can pull off the upset and ensure that the title game heads back to the Stick if San Francisco beats New Orleans.
After going a perfect 5-5 on touchdown drives in the second half Saturday against the Detroit Lions, it's obvious that the New Orleans Saints' offense is potent. What's even more obvious than that is that the Saints offense has been this potent for a long time now, but that's besides the point.
The status of wide receiver Lance Moore is still in question for the Black and Gold as he sat out last week's game with a hamstring injury. Will it really affect how the Saints do business offensively? Well, if the Lions game was any indication, it certainly doesn't look like it.
Moore hauled in 52 catches for 627 yards and 8 touchdown scores this year, so to say his presence will not be missed is probably going too far. But with a more than capable trio of receivers in Robert Meachem, Marques Colston and Devery Henderson, running back Darren Sproles, tight end Jimmy Graham and even fullback Jed Collins, Drew Brees won't have a shortage on dangerous targets next weekend for the 49ers to prepare for.
Moore is a serious danger downfield and a valued weapon for their offense, but if he doesn't suit up against the 49ers I think the Saints will probably be OK.
For more on the 49ers, make sure to check out Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers now know that they will face off against the New Orleans Saints next Saturday in the second round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. The matchup was predicted by many, but that doesn't make the showdown any less exciting or anticipated.
According to Packey over at the indispensable Awful Announcing, the commentary team for next week's game between the Niners and the Saints will be play-by-play man Kenny Albert, color analyst Daryl Johnston and sideline reporter Tony Siragusa. Depending on how you feel about that team, you may want to opt to listen to the radio broadcast on KNBR or Sirius.
In all honesty, the mid-range of football announcers between Al Michaels at the "good" end and Joe Buck at the...other end is pretty much indistinguishable. I think we can all just be grateful that Buck and Aikman will be traveling to Green Bay on Sunday and won't be sullying the announce booth at Candlestick Park just yet.
On Saturday night, the San Francisco 49ers watched the opening round of playoffs during their bye week and learned that they'll be facing the New Orleans Saints next week. the Saints knocked off the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card Round and earned the right to come to San Francisco next Saturday.
It was another typical offensive explosion on Saturday by Drew Brees and the Saints, who came to life in a big way in the second half of the game to take the 45-28 victory and advance to the second round.
It will be interesting to see how the offensive-minded Saints stack up against the insanely tough defense of San Francisco, but the early reports on the opening betting line appear to be in favor of New Orleans. According to Saturday night's post-game telecast on NBC Bay Area, the opening odds for the Saints-Niners game favor New Orleans to win by 3 points.
The San Francisco 49ers and their fans sat back for a relaxing weekend of Wild Card playoff games, having earned a first-round bye. Finishing the regular season at 13-3, the 49ers held the same record as the New Orleans Saints, but earned a week off due to to a common opponent tiebreaker. They were forced to play an extra game en route to a potential Super Bowl win, and hosted the No. 6 Detroit Lions on Saturday.
And, true to their seeding, promptly dispatched of said Lions.
It was a close game through one half, and the Lions actually held the lead at that point, but the Saints quickly put it out of reach, going up by three possessions in the fourth quarter. Drew Brees and that high-power offense had their way with the Lions secondary, the play-calling always a step ahead. Now, they'll come to Candlestick Park to the on the 49ers in the Divisional Round, and the sentiment following the game was that the 49ers had little chance.
That sentiment being on Twitter, of course, and it's something Jim Harbaugh and his team have thrived on all season. There's a lot to look at for this game, mostly regarding the poor play of the Lions defense. There were dropped interceptions, poor tackles and blown coverages. The opportunistic 49ers defense isn't going to drop those interceptions, and guys like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman aren't going to miss tackles on Pierre Thomas.
There were plenty of times when the defense allowed short gains and potential stops on second and third down to become first downs and then some. Thomas, in particular, had three or four different times in which he should have been brought down, but instead he picked up another couple of yards for the first down, and sometimes more. Those aren't the kind of tackles that the 49ers are going to miss.
And that's why this is such an interesting matchup. It's one of the league's top two offenses up against one of the league's top two defenses. Can it get much better than that?
The New Orleans Saints hosted the Detroit Lions at the Superdome on Saturday night in the first round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. The Saints were the overwhelming favorites entering the game, but the Lions put up a tough fight, particularly through the first half of play. In the end, the Saints came away with the victory by a final score of 45-28.
Darren Sproles would tie the game on a rushing touchdown early in the second quarter. Five minutes later, Calvin Johnson hauled in a 13-yard pass from Stafford and the Lions had taken a 14-7 lead. John Kasay kicked a 24-yard field goal at the end of the half, sending the game to halftime with the Lions holding a 14-10 lead.
The Saints regrouped in a big way in the second half as they scored on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Devery Henderson within the first two minutes of the third quarter. The touchdown gave the Saints their first lead of the game. Brees would give the Saints another touchdown late in the third quarter, when Stafford ran in the ball from the goal line to bring the Lions back within 3.
The Saints scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, on a 17-yard Sproles run and a 56-yard pass from Brees to Robert Meachem. That stretched the lead all the way out to 38-21 in favor of the Saints. Although the Lions would score one final touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Stafford to Johnson, the Saints got those points right back on a short touchdown run from Pierre Thomas.
With the win, the Saints will advance to the second round next Saturday, as they will travel to Candlestick Park to take on the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers.
For all news and information regarding the New Orleans Saints, please visit Canal Street Chronicles. For updates and perspective on the Detroit Lions, head on over to Pride of Detroit. For all things 49ers, you can always check out Niners Nation.
San Francisco defensive end Ray McDonald sat out of practice on Friday and continued rehabilitation of an injured hamstring while watching from the sidelines. The severity of the injury is still unknown, and with a good week between now and the 49ers playoff opener at Candlestick Park on January 14th, his availability for the game is still a big question mark. McDonald suffered the pulled hamstring late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against St. Louis.
Recently named All-Pro Justin Smith (knee), recently named Pro-Bowler Carlos Rogers (knee) and Chris Culliver (knee) also sat out of practice on Friday. TE Delanie Walker (jaw) continued to sit out of practice, hasn't taken part since Dec. 22, and he is not expected to play next week.
"It's emotional," Walker said Friday, "First time in the playoffs and I get hurt, and not being able to play. Kind of hurts. But our team is doing well, and I'm recovering the way I want to recover, so who knows?"
The 49ers would certainly like to have him back but it doesn't look good for Walker, who has just recently begun to eat solid foods again after having his jaw wired shut following the Niners' win over Seattle two weeks ago.
Also notable, Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams and Bruce Miller all were good to go for Friday's practice.
To discuss the 49ers, head to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers need to have all hands on deck for their second-round opponent. Although they will probably be favored against two of the three teams they could possibly face, the more guys they have available for their first game, the better.
It's particularly important in the receiving corps, where the 49ers are pretty thin right now. When you get past Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, San Francisco has the injured Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams next in line. The good news is that both are back in action. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports that both are back in action. Having Ginn and Williams should allow the 49ers to run their whole offense and at least prove they can stretch the field rather than getting boxed in by opposing defenses.
The big question concerns Delanie Walker
To discuss the 49ers, head to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers have earned themselves a first-round bye and a home playoff game, and will sat back this weekend to see how the Wild Card round shapes up. Of the four teams playing for the NFC over the weekend, three of them could be teams that San Francisco could see in the divisional round. The only team in action that the 49ers can't play is the Detroit Lions, as they're the lowest seed, and would default to a game against the Green Bay Packers (for the third time this season) if they happen to win.
Which means the three teams that could end up coming to Candlestick Park on the 14th include the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants. First, we'll take a look at the first one, the No. 3 seeded Saints.
Drew Brees has led the Saints to an identical record to San Francisco, sitting at 13-3 , but ultimately losing the tiebreak due to an earlier loss to the lowly St. Louis Rams. You can look at the fact that they lost to the Rams while the 49ers beat them twice (including a shutout earlier in the season), but that would be foolish. It's clear that New Orleans simply had an off day.
But yes, back to the aforementioned quarterback - Drew Brees. If you hadn't heard, he's kind of a big deal, having broken Dan Marino's long-standing passing yardage record in Week 16 and piling it on in Week 17, along with NFL records for completions and completion percentage in a single season. Aside from earning a first-round bye, it was absolutely necessary that the 49ers beat the Rams the second time and secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC, because Brees is absolutely filthy at home.
The best case scenario will be a game in which the weather is poor and Brees is rattled. San Francisco's defense is very good, potentially the best in the NFL, but a little help from the elements in this potential game would be a big help.
New Orleans is first in the league in offensive yards per game, passing yards per game, No. 6 in rushing yards per game and No. 2 in points scored. They've almost got 100 more first downs than their opponents this season (416 to 326) and have more than 1,000 more yards than their opponents as well (7474 to 5895). Relief could come for the 49ers in the form of the Saints defense, which is ranked 24th in the league and can, at times, be very porous.
Perhaps the most significant of those stats, just by how ... almost outlandish it seems is the rushing yardage stat. The Saints have no rushers over 1,000 yards or, really, anywhere close, yet they rank No. 6 in the league in rushing yards per game. That's because four different running backs have over 300 yards for the Saints. Darren Sproles, a free agent acquisition, has 603 yards on the ground, with a stunning 710 yards receiving on top of that. Pierre Thomas has rushed for 562 yards, and rookie Mark Ingram has rushed for 474 yards. Bringing up the rear is Chris Ivory, who still has 374 yards and a 4.7 per-carry average.
Sproles has a whopping 6.9 per carry average, and has his 603 yards off of just 87 attempts. Then again, San Francisco boasts the league's best rush defense, and have dealt with speedy players effectively this season.
If the Saints win on Saturday, then that's who the 49ers will play, regardless. They'd be the highest remaining seed, and that means a huge matchup at Candlestick Park. But the Lions do stand a chance to beat the Saints, considering the weaknesses they possess defensively. Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense are one of the best in the league. Unfortunately for them, they also have a somewhat porous defense that can be passed on.
In the Superdome, that's going to be a tall order for the Lions - stopping Brees. It's pretty clear the 49ers are rooting for a Lions victory on Saturday, regardless.
For the San Francisco 49ers, earning a first-round bye in the 2012 NFL Playoffs was more of a necessity than a luxury. While any team would prefer to have one less game getting in the way of their Super Bowl hopes, the 49ers suffered an awful lot of injuries over the last couple of weeks, and can use the bye week to get healthier. Heading into their Week 17 matchup against the St. Louis Rams, they were already hurting, but coming out of it, there's a couple further concerns.
Though he returned to the field late in the game to insure the 49ers got the win, helping to stem off the Rams' late comeback, defensive end Justin Smith aggravated a knee injury and left in the first quarter, returning late in the fourth. Smith is a gamer, and it's not likely he'd miss any time if the 49ers had to play say, tomorrow, but some extra time to rest can only be a good thing.
Frank Gore also left the game early, and most figured he was just going to rest, but head coach Jim Harbaugh said that Gore was dealing with some injury issues. Still, Gore himself said that he's good to go. But for a running back that has dealt with injury problems throughout his entire football career, another week of rest can only help. Fullback Bruce Miller left the game with a knee injury and Moran Norris saw significant snaps, but he also returned late. It was the same knee injury that he was dealing with earlier in the season so, again, a week just helps.
As far as the pre-existing injuries are concerned, the 49ers expect both receivers Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr. back in action. Williams has not been medically cleared to play following a concussion, but with that extra week, he should be good to go. Ginn is already running at just about full speed, so he too should be ready.
The only player really doubtful to return is tight end Delanie Walker, who sustained a fractured jaw against the Seattle Seahawks. He's not yet ruled out, however, and those kinds of injuries are taken on a case-by-case basis and vary a lot in recovery time.
We break down the NFL's recently released 2012 NFL Playoffs schedule. The 49ers are set to host their first playoff game in nine years on Saturday, January 14. For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.
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