Saints vs. 49ers: Darren Sproles and Players Who'll Cost the Saints in SF

T.J. McaloonContributorJanuary 13, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:   Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown as he is tackled by  Jordan Senn #57 of the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints come into their divisional round game against the San Francisco 49ers as a four-point favorite. However, this win isn’t guaranteed, as the 49ers bring in the best rushing defense in the NFL and a passing defense that ranked fifth in the NFC. They will shut down the Saints on Saturday, and they will cause these players to have awful games. 

Running Back Darren Sproles

The 49ers dominated almost every running back this year. In 15 of their 16 games, they held the opposing running back to under 100 yards. This led to the 49ers to have an average yards per game on rushing defense of 77.3. 

The second best team that followed the 49ers in rushing yards per game was Baltimore, who only allowed 92.6 yards per game. 

With their dominating play in the trenches, it will keep the Saints running game to under 50 yards. While Sproles isn’t their feature back, however, he had more rushing yards (51) than receiving yards (34) last week against the Detroit Lions. This week he will struggle when he is called upon to run the ball because of this suffocating defense. 

Wide Receiver Marques Colston

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Marques Colston #12 of the New Orleans Saints fumbles the ball while being tackled by Stephen Tulloch #55 and  DeAndre Levy #54 of the Detroit Lions during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Colston led the Saints last week in receptions (seven) and yards (120). He was a big reason why the Saints passing game was able to stretch the Lions defense to gain 466 yards and score three times. 

However, the 49ers ranked third in the NFC in receiver touchdowns, only allowing 20 on the season. 

To go with the low touchdowns, they only allowed 12 yards per catch to wideouts, while sacking the quarterback 44 times. The 49ers will be able to get to quarterback Drew Brees, who will have to rush his throws to Colston. 

With the 49ers cornerback Carlos Rodgers all over Colston, it will result in the Saints receiver having a down game where he only catches three passes for 40 yards. 

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 26:  Tight end Michael Palmer #81 of the Atlanta Falcons runs after a catch as middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints dives for the tackle in the third quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 2
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Vilma will be in charge of stopping the 49ers running game on Saturday. However, because the 49ers have the NFL’s eight best rushing attack, averaging 128 yards per game, it will lead to Vilma failing to help the Saints get off the field on third down. 

This rushing attack thrives when they have a week in between games. When they had a week off in the regular season, they came out the following week against Cleveland and rushed as a team for 174 yards. 

Vilma will have a tough time stopping Frank Gore, and stopping tight end Vernon Davis. This will lead to the 49ers dominating the time of possession, which means Brees and the Saints offense will have less time and possessions to score. 

The Saints were perfect at home this year, going 8-0. However, they were only 5-3 on the road. The 49ers defense and the running game will help this San Francisco team reach their first NFC Championship game in this century.