As the game against the Saints approaches we hear the predictable discussion surrounding Drew Brees and the New Orleans passing game. It's no surprise, Brees broke several NFL records (completion%, passing yards) this season and anyone can see he is a masterful thrower of ye old pigskin.
The really impressive thing that Brees does, something I always admired in Peyton Manning as well, is he sees the whole field and throws to whomever is open: short, intermediate, deep...on any given play. Completions will come. The Saints spread out in five-wide formations quite often and as I said, Brees can find which guy is even remotely open.
The 49ers are no strangers to the concept of allowing completions, in fact, it's sort of the strategy against pass-happy teams. The idea is to let them move down the field with short and intermediate passes, rallying to make the tackle after the catch, and also trying to force fumbles and incompletions as they do it.
The one thing the defense does NOT want to allow though are deep passes. That's because the defense is one of the best in the red-zone, but if you let a deep pass get to the end-zone, there's no need for red-zone defense. We've seen this when Dallas came back and won at our place, as a direct result of deep passes.
For this reason, I think there's one guy in particular who must have a great game if the 49ers are to hold-off the Saints and claim the victory. Jump to find out who.
If you want to prevent the deep ball you've got to cover receivers, yes. But you've also gotta have help at times. Corners get burned, slip, fall down, or just aren't as fast as the wide receiver at times. There's also the problem of short and intermediate passes becoming longer plays due to yards-after-catch. You need someone there to tackle the guy after he catches the ball.
This player, the one who accomplishes both of these things, is the Free Safety...in our case: Dashon Goldson.
Goldson is going to have to be disciplined in this game in a few areas: He'll have to stay deep in zone coverage, deeper than the deepest route, at all times. He can't bite on run-fakes, pump-fakes, etc. If any corner get's burned (and you can bet we'll have three or more on the field very often, meaning deeper reserve guys), Goldson has to be there to make a play on the ball or at the very least, make the TD-saving tackle.
He'll also need to be disciplined in the tackling aspect itself. As I said, Brees will complete short and intermediate passes all day if that's what you give him. The 49ers have looked sloppy making tackles the past few games and Goldson himself has been known to go for the big torpedo hit, sometimes resulting in the missed-tackle.
Granted, we want him to hit hard and intimidate the Saints receivers, but again...he has to be disciplined. If he's the last line of defense, a smashing hit isn't what's called-for. A sound, wrap-up tackle is the cure in that situation. He must take good angles and know where his help is, too.
Brees likes to fit the ball into tight windows. He will put it out there to be taken away at least a few times in this game. If Goldson trusts the scheme and his teammates, he'll likely be in position to do what the Lions didn't do: make the pick and put Brees and Co. on the bench.