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If there were ever a game for the 49ers' ball-control, West Coast style, this is it. Think back a week to Stanford's strategy versus explosive Oklahoma State. The Cowboys would score quickly, and the Cardinal would answer with a slow, patient drive that rested the defense and kept OSU's offense off the field.
The 49ers need to do the same thing this Saturday. Handoffs to Frank Gore, short routes over the middle and screen passes in the flat will keep the ball moving while also keeping Drew Brees and his two favorite receivers, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, on the sidelines.
Under no circumstances can the 49ers be drawn into a shootout. If the Lions had a critical flaw in their offensive plan on Saturday, it was an over-reliance on the passing game.
Part of it happened because they got behind, which is a tough position to be in against the Saints. But for whatever reason, in the second half the Saints could virtually ignore the Lions' running attack. That allowed them to blitz frequently and effectively. The 49ers can avoid that by mixing the run and the pass, and emphasizing short gains and long drives.