San Francisco 49ers: Coaching Points to Beat New Orleans Saints
Forget about the last nine years of yuck.
The San Francisco 49ers are back and have reconnected their roots to their dynasty days.
With that in mind, there is an ultimate expectation of victory heading into an ominous matchup against the New Orleans Saints, who, for all intents and purposes, are the best team in football right now.
It will take a lot of ingenuity, execution and good ol'-fashion West Coast offensive strategy to beat this vaunted powerhouse.
Can Jim Harbaugh and his staff do it?
Of course they can!
Wrap Up! No RAC!
Oh, those pesky Saints.
They just get teams from all ends at all angles.
Even last year when they faced the 49ers, the Saints went back to the basics: Texas routes around the O-line, in front of the linebackers, rack up the RAC. Eventually a touchdown. Game, set, match. See you later.
This is nothing new, especially in San Francisco where Bill Walsh invented such things in the golden days with Roger Craig.
The trick to stopping it is simple: Just tackle.
That's all there is to it. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman must tackle Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.
Oops. Was that so hard?
Yes, it was.
But if anyone can do it, it's the two All-Pros.
Rush the Quarterback
The 49ers don't like to blitz.
It's just not in their nature.
They like that old-fashioned "elephant" position, which is the linebacker coming off the edge. Now a days, this is a normal thing for some teams, but it used to be just a 49er thing.
Well, as most things in life are, the 49ers are stubborn, and instead of scheming a chaos-ridden string of blitz schemes to attack their opponents, they like to keep it simple and rush four.
This gives the core set of linebackers, namely Willis and Bowman, the freedom to roam and decapitate running backs.
But what happens against a team like the Saints, which, on offense, can do whatever it wants whenever it wants to do it?
The answer is simple: Aldon Smith.
Yes, folks, it's that easy.
Bring young Aldon off the edge, then stunt to the middle and watch Drew Brees crumble.
Move the Middle
The Saints have a very sleepy defensive front, which boasts the likes of famous Madden video game DL studs such as Shaun Rogers, Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis.
OK, I'm not a math whiz, but that's like 10,000 pounds worth of guy right there.
And maybe Smith doesn't really count in that mix, but that still leaves at least half a ton or so of guy to move out of the way so Frank Gore can run.
Gee, I wonder who can help with that...? Oh! Pro Bowl-snubbed Mike Iupati!
Yes, folks, it'll be up to the ol' Idaho Vandals' finest to help maneuver that massive ton of man out of the way for his star running back.
Iupati is fine with such a task. He's been the anchor of this running game for two seasons now.
And, in case anyone was wondering, I'm sure Frank Gore will be fine with it, too.
Look for the Niners and Iupati to actually run away from this duo more often than run through it.
Frank Gore for President
Remember that time when Frank Gore crushed the league with his awesomeness but it didn't matter because the Niners sucked?
Well, forget all that because now it counts!
This will be Gore's first playoff game, and if anyone deserves it, it's him.
I don't know Gore personally, and odds are that none of you reading this do either, but let's come together and say, with humble hearts: This one's for Frank!
The Saints are notorious for not being able to tackle on defense and they give up big chunks of yards on the ground.
It's been said a hundred times by a million scribes and pundits and I won't be the first or the last but regardless, it needs to be said:
Pound. The. Rock.
Inside. Outside. Again and again.
Gore likes his carries.
Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom.
Alex Smith's Signature Moment
Oh, I can sit here for days over a fine bottle of scotch and talk about what Bill Walsh looks for in a quarterback.
But it starts and ends with one statement (because when asked this is what The Genius answered): the ability to make the first man miss.
Ladies and gents, I present to you...Alex Smith.
He's mobile, he's tough, he's cerebral and—let's face it, folks—he has nothing to lose.
This will be a great task for the coaching staff, especially Jim Harbaugh, who, at one time, led an average Colts team to the brink of a Super Bowl berth when he was their starting quarterback.
Coach Harbaugh knows the ins and outs of the position and he even knows the Walshian perspective as well.
This, the playoffs, are now the time, more than ever for Alex Smith to simply let loose in a way that still manifests his skills and abilities. It's up to the coaching staff to cultivate this. It's up to the team to execute it.
Alex Smith can and will have a signature moment against the New Orleans Saints.
But don't wait for it...
Just let it happen.
Because it will.
Because it has to if the 49ers want to win.
Won't Get Fooled Again
The Saints like to do this thing where they score touchdowns.
It's pretty cool when it's against any team but the 49ers.
One of the plays they run is very, very simple.
They like to put pressure on the safeties by running the wideout deep, taking up the cornerback and then the slot receiver on a post, which typically takes up the slot corner.
This leaves the safety to make a choice: inside or outside.
OK, normally no big deal. But when the receivers are the likes of Marques Colston and Devery Henderson...or Robert Meachem...or Lance Moore if he's healthy, the stakes get a little higher in such a simple situation.
Drew Brees will attack that very receiver who has that tiny, minuscule step against his defender and whoosh...there's the ball, on target, so start trotting back up to the new line because that's a big, huge gain, if not a touchdown.
The 49ers must anticipate this.
However, because of the multifaceted levels of the Saints attack, 49ers linebackers Willis and Bowman will probably be keying in on the running backs. Any backpedal zone coverage would be counterproductive at that point as well as moot, as Brees will just loft the ball over their heads anyway.
The 49ers cannot bite on the pump fake.
The 49ers must bump within their five yards.
The 49ers must make a pick or two.
And, of course, a pass rush would help.
Remember the 49ers
Jim Harbaugh may or may not mention this.
Maybe, hopefully, he doesn't have to.
This playoff berth for the 49ers isn't something that can be cheered on in the same manner that the Bangles and Cardinals cheer on when their time comes every decade or so.
This is the San Francisco 49ers.
I repeat: This is the San Francisco 49ers, the winner of five Super Bowls.
The players, the coaches, the fans, the hot dog vendors, everyone needs to remember this.
Win or lose, this is a franchise that had, at one time, established itself as the benchmark organization in all of professional sports.
This season, this renaissance is an awaking of these standards.
Remember the memories and remember the bad times, the last nine years of darkness. Remember that darkness as the musky sunlight of Candlestick hits the face masks and shoulder pads.
The Saints are, again, for all intents and purposes, the best team in football.
Look at the scoreboard end of the field where The Catch happened. Remember that moment...
Then make a new one and win the game.