Saints vs. 49ers: Why Sproles-Thomas Duo Will Be Essential in Saints Victory

Luis BatlleContributor IJanuary 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:   Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after a run against the Detroit Lions during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It's not QB Drew Brees, not WR Marques Colston, and not TE Jimmy Graham that will necessarily determine the fate of the New Orleans Saints.

It will inevitably be the play of RB duo Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas that will either ride this team to victory or leave this team short of an NFC championship.

This is not to say that Brees, Colston and Graham won't have a fair amount of impact on this game, but it will be Sproles and Thomas that could and will open up the game for Drew Brees downfield.

Considering the type of numbers Drew Brees has been putting up this season, completely shattering Dan Marino's record for most passing yards in a season, this 49ers defense has inevitably taken the time to dissect him on film and have put together a game plan against his attack.

Yet this is a 49ers defense predicated on stopping the run and forcing teams to throw the ball, as Sproles and Thomas, in turn, will be given more opportunities to run the ball and run the ball well with the focus all going to Brees.

What makes the RB duo such a threat to this offense, is the fact that they are two completely different types of running backs.

Thomas will hit the hole hard, pound the ball down the middle of the line, and is a back that likes to get his fair share of looks at the goal line. Last game against the Detroit Lions in the Wildcard round, Thomas picked up 66 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries. His ability to pressure the Lions defense with long, tough runs was arguably the difference maker in the game.

Meanwhile, Sproles has been having himself some monster outings as well. Against the Lions, Sproles was equally as effective or more effective than Thomas, rushing for 51 yards and 10 carries for two touchdowns.

The ability of these two backs to break loose and put pressure on an opposing defense and its front seven will be huge for this Saints team against the 49ers. They feature the No.1 rushing defense in the NFL, as Sproles and Thomas will have to be on a mission, from the start, to break through this 49ers line.

If Sproles and Thomas are able to do the type of damage they did in the game against the Lions, expect plenty of points to go up for the Saints in this one. A promising Sproles-Thomas attack will mean trouble for the 49ers if they are able to get out to especially positive starts.