In our continued efforts to move forward (the 49ers lost ugly last week? Really? i don't know what you're talking about!), we're taking some time to preview Monday's primetime matchup with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are an incredibly talented team, but they can certainly be beaten. While they did win last week, it was a tough one to close out, so it will be interesting to see if last week was mostly rust, or if they might be a bit more mortal.
Yesterday I had a chance to exchange some questions with Dave Cariello over at Canal Street Chronicles. My answers to his questions will like be posted at some point today so I'll get a link up to that in this post. Thanks to Dave for taking some time to discuss the defending Super Bowl champions.
Fooch: I'd imagine you've discussed this ad nauseum, but we'd still like to know: how is the team (at least publicly) handling all the drama with Reggie Bush and the Heisman Trophy?
CSC: The organization isn't really making a big deal about it, a wise move in my opinion, probably because it doesn't really concern them. They have, however, come out publicly in support of him and the decision he's made. As for the fans, I don't think they really care much. I'm sure many, like myself, are hoping Reggie uses this whole debacle as motivation to play hard this week and this season.
Fooch: Can you tell us a bit about the Saints defensive scheme against the pass? The 49ers offense was in shambles last week and I'm curious what to expect with the 49ers battling to establish some kind of decent offense.
CSC: Second-year defensive coordinator Gregg Williams really likes to mix up the looks. The front seven will alternate between 3-4 and 4-3 on a play by play basis, never knowing who they'll bring on a blitz or drop back into coverage. Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer are the teams starting corners and they're reliable enough to be trusted with a lot of man-to-man coverage, leaving safeties and linebackers free to roam and make a big play or to help in coverage. The good news is that playmaker and starting safety Darren Sharper will not be playing, with Malcolm Jenkins taking his place.
Two years ago I would have said the Saints defense would be the perfect matchup to help an opponents offense get back on track, but not anymore.
Fooch: The Saints had 1 sack and 4 QB hits against Favre (according to espn.com). Was his relatively ineffective performance more due to his own rust, or did the Saints do something well that didn't show up in the box score?
CSC: I think the Saints defense played well in their first outing of the 2010 season but I would certainly agree that Favre was possibly his own worst enemy last Thursday night. Favre looked just like someone who missed all of training camp and part of pre-season this summer. Surprised? The Vikings were also minus Sidney Rice. It wasn't in the Saints gameplan to really attack Favre this time around, hence the unimpressive stats you mention, but they did what they needed.
Fooch: Do you expect the Saints to continue with such a balanced passing attack, or do you expect it to focus in one 2 or 3 specific weapons?
CSC: Absolutely, without question. As long as Brees and Payton are in control they will always spread the ball around. That basic principle is at the very core of the teams entire offensive philosophy. When a defense is able to take the Saints away from this game plan is when they find success against Brees and Co.
Fooch: Any chance the Saints miss the bus to the airport this week? But seriously, what do you think the 49ers would have to do to win this game (or what would the Saints need to do to lose this game)?
CSC: I used to get this question a lot last season and I think the answer is still the same. What I just mentioned above is a good start. Opponents have to get the Saints offense uncomfortable and off their game. To do that, the defense needs to put a ton of pressure on Brees. Constant, constant pressure. He cannot be allowed to do whatever he wants in the pocket.
On offense, the best chance at success would probably be to run the ball well. Run defense is definitely the weakest aspect of the Saints defense and they have a tendency to give up big plays, particularly early on. Finding success on the ground will then offer better opportunity to attack the secondary as well.
Also very important would be to get ahead early and force the Saints to become one-dimensional and unbalanced on offense.