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The swarming Niners defense in action.
Through the past four games, the Drew Brees-led offense has posted—for lack of more sophisticated vocabulary—stupid good numbers.
The man himself has averaged 394 yards passing, 4 TDs, a completion percentage of 73.9, a QB rating of 130.2 and has thrown only three interceptions. Referring back to the title of the slide, the team has averaged 44 points in that span.
The rushing attack, led by Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, has averaged 175 yards and produced seven TDs.
How do the Niners propose to stop this onslaught?
Simple answer: With the best defense the Saints have faced this season.
The only relevant, playoff-qualified top 10 defense overall and in points allowed on the Saints schedule belonged to the Houston Texans.
During their past four games, each Saints opponent has ranked in the bottom 16 in scoring defense.
Enter the punishing 49ers.
Vic Fangio’s boys rank No. 4 overall—along with the NFL’s No.1 rushing defense and No. 2 scoring defense (by a wee 0.1 points per game). They have not allowed a rushing TD at home all year (NFL record three overall) and a mere 10.8 points per game at Candlestick Park.
The combination of linebackers Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, and safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner will eliminate the x-factor Sproles and his dangerous maneuvering in space.
Their physicality and sideline-to-sideline coverage abilities will also reduce the impact of mega-beast tight end Jimmie Graham.
Moreover, rookie LB Aldon Smith will showcase his Pro Bowl-deserving credentials to a national television audience. He will even match his pass-rushing abilities (14 sacks) with success in coverage assignments and in stopping the run.
Perhaps most impressive of all is the 49ers NFL-leading 38 takeaways.
Brees will get his 300 yards passing and three TDs. But like Big Ben for the Steelers, he will accrue that yardage before the red zone, throw at least two picks and be sacked twice by the menacing Niners front seven.
His final TD will arrive too little, too late in mop-up time.
And don’t expect Sproles and his fellow RBs to even sniff the goal line. Do expect them to contribute to the home team’s 15 fumble recoveries, though.