NFL Playoffs: 6 Factors the 49ers Must Control to Beat the Saints

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NFL Playoffs: 6 Factors the 49ers Must Control to Beat the Saints
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Several numbers from New Orleans’ 45-28 victory over Detroit last week scream for attention, and they aren’t the 626 yards in offense. If the 49ers are to be successful in this week’s NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park, the following issues must be addressed:

Eighty-one – the number of snaps the Saints had against Detroit, a mind-boggling number that supports the theory that the longer an offense is on the field, the better it gets and the longer a defense is on the field, the worse it gets. That Detroit had 53 snaps accounts for its 15-minute disparity in time of possession.

10-of-15 – The rate the Saints converted on third (7-of-11) and fourth down (3-of-4). The last one really stands out because it reflects the Saints’ aggressiveness and confidence. Sean Payton (pictured) believes his team can make anyone pay at any time.

4-of-4 – In four trips inside the 20, Detroit scored four TDs and that wasn’t enough. Why? Because New Orleans was 4-of-6, and really 4-of-5 because the game ended with the Saints taking a knee deep in Detroit territory.

Three – The number of Drew Brees passes that Detroit defenders dropped.

Aside from the whopping offensive production and the fact that Brees finished the game with a quarterback rating of 134.4 supports the claim that New Orleans ranks as one of the game’s best offenses of all time – up there with the ’84 Dolphins, the ’83 Chargers, the ’07 Patriots and the ’10 Colts.

The 49ers defense has ranked as one of the league’s best but it hasn’t faced as diverse and potent an offense like this all year. That’s what makes the matchup so compelling. To succeed, here are six factors the 49ers must control to beat the Saints.

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