The San Francisco 49ers came up short on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, but one upside to the game was the generally strong performance of the defense. The unit had its struggles at times, but given how the Saints have performed this season, the defense put the 49ers in a position to win the game. It didn't pan out they way we hoped, but if the offense can get its act together, they've got a potentially great defense waiting for them.
We're in the midst of a series of posts looking at the "teammates of the week" for each game. In looking back at Sunday's game, I have to go with the linebackers. It wasn't exactly a lights out performance, but in considering the 49ers performance, can you think of any unit that performed better? The secondary did some solid work as well, but my choice for the best performing unit has to be the linebackers corps.
NaVorro Bowman led the way with 15 total tackles, while Patrick Willis chipped in six tackles. Aldon Smith had one tackle and one QB hit, and Dan Skuta had three tackles and a QB hit. However, the most high profile day belonged to Ahmad Brooks. We've had plenty about the personal foul on the strip sack, but my favorite play of his from Sunday had to be his interception of Drew Brees:
It's crazy how much time Brees has on the play, but the 49ers dropped into significant coverage. Brees was able to run around because of the limited pass rush, but he also couldn't find any open receivers....because of the limited pass rush. He eventually tried to dump it off to tight end Jimmy Graham, but Brooks made an incredibly athletic leap to secure the interception.
Speaking of Graham, the 49ers did a solid enough job against Graham. He had six receptions for 41 yards, and made some pretty big catches for them, with five of his six catches converting first downs. However, considering he was targeted 11 times, I think the 49ers did a solid job covering him. The 49ers mixed and matched coverages, but the linebackers deserve their share of credit against Graham.
The 49ers travel to Washington this coming Monday, and the linebackers will have their work cut out for them. Pierre Garcon has been Robert Griffin III's primary target, but Jordan Reed has quickly become a favorite. I imagine Patrick Willis will end up getting most of the work on Reed, but the rest of the linebackers will need to be ready. And given RG3's scrambling ability, the linebackers will have to remain disciplined. RG3 is not quite the same runner he was last year, but he remains dangerous.