A huge reason why the Saints have had a resurgence, winning three straight games and four of their last five, is the play of Drew Brees. He's a guy that seemingly can take over on offense with whomever he has available to him. He's just a smart quarterback who understands defenses, his own scheme/players, and he makes good decisions as a result.
Brees is easily one of the best QBs in the NFL, and nobody would argue that, but he's not perfect. Numbers never tell the whole story, but I think we tend to assume that someone like Brees must have out-of-this-world stats in all of the key categories. Well, he doesn't.
For instance, you might be surprised to hear that Brees hasn't thrown for 300 yards since week seven. Yep, in the last four games Brees has only exceeded even 250 yards one time, in fact. Against Oakland he threw for 219 and Denver 213. Of course, he's also thrown for 10 TDs in the past four games, so he made the plays that counted.
Brees has also thrown four interceptions in his last four games and nine on the season. The 49ers should have a chance at at least one INT on Sunday if Brees' average continues. Taking advantage of that turnover, should it come, could be key to getting the victory.
One area where Brees has excelled is not taking sacks. He's been sacked just 16 times in 10 games, and only four times in the last five games. I'm sure Aldon Smith would like to change that trend, but Brees feels the rush very well and has great movement within and outside of the pocket. You need to hem him in and get to him quickly without blitzing much, as he'll hit the receiver in the vacated portion of the field if you do.
The other thing I notice when looking at Brees' numbers is his YPA (yards per attempt), which sits at 7.6 for the season, but has been over eight yards per attempt in the past three games. This means he's getting a lot of long gains in the passing game and the 49ers will need to play sound coverage without mental mistakes. We learned in 2011 that tackling after the reception is crucial with this team, too, as Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham both broke into the open field for scores late in the Divisional Playoff Game.
As mentioned in the summary, numbers don't tell the whole story, and Brees has certainly made his throws count even if some of his stats aren't world-beating. The 49ers will clearly have their hands full, but if they can maximize their opportunities to sack and intercept Brees, they have a shot at keeping pace with the Saints offense. Running the ball effectively and keeping him off the field will also go a long way.