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49ers Vs. Saints: A Prospector's Guide

The San Francisco 49ers welcome the New Orleans Saints to town this Saturday for the first 49ers playoff game in nine years. The last time the 49ers were in the playoffs, they pulled off the biggest comeback in playoff history in their wild card round victory over the New York Giants. They followed that up with a 31-6 thrashing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Shortly thereafter, the team fired Steve Mariucci and moved on to eight seasons of ignominious play.

This will be the first postseason matchup between the two teams, but they have plenty of history. The two teams were members of the NFC West from 1970 to 2001, at which point the Saints moved to the NFC South. The 49ers lead the all-time series 45-24-2 but have lost six straight to the Saints dating back to 2002.

In reality, the recent history is not particularly pertinent. The 49ers did play the Saints extremely close last year, but it is worth noting how early in the season it was and how much more explosive the Saints offense is this season. They've put 1,500 more yards of offense thanks in part to replacing Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush with Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. As BASG pointed out in the link above, it's also worth noting the Saints were defending champs and a Super Bowl hangover shouldn't have been the most surprising possibility.

It's of course most notable that these 49ers are a much different team from last year. There are a lot of familiar faces from that game, but we all know it's a different team. It makes for a matchup that should be fun all around. I don't see either team winning in blowout fashion, but rather a fairly close battle that will keep all of us on the edge of our seats.

  • The 49ers ranked first in the NFL with a plus-28 turnover differential, in 2011. They registered the most takeaways (38) and the fewest turnovers (10) in the league this year. The +28 turnover differential ranks t-2nd in the NFL since 1970.
  • The 49ers had five players named Associated Press First-Team All-Pro (K David Akers, LB NaVorro Bowman, P Andy Lee, DT Justin Smith and LB Patrick Wills). The five selections were the most from any team in the NFL.
  • The 49ers defense allowed just three rushing TDs in 2011, the fewest allowed by any team in the NFL. Since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the team's three rushing TDs allowed ranks 1st in the NFL. The three rushing TDs allowed also ranks t-5th in NFL history.
  • QB Alex Smith posted an INT percentage of 1.1 for the season, ranking 3rd in NFL history (min. 400 atts.).


  • The 49ers started 37 drives in their opponents territory, which ranked 1st in the NFL. They scored 134 points on those drives, which also ranked 1st in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers allowed just 11 drives to start in their own territory, which ranked t-1st in the NFL.


  • The 49ers average starting field position was at their own 33.5-yard line, ranking 1st in the NFL. At home, the 49ers had an avg. starting field position of their own 35.5-yard line, which ranked 1st in the NFL.


  • The 49ers ranked 1st in the NFL with an opponents average starting field position of the 24.3-yard line, in 2011. At home, the 49ers opponents had an avg. starting field position of their own 20.8-yard line, which ranked 1st in the NFL.


  • The 49ers have allowed just 229 points on the season, ranking 2nd in the NFL for the fewest points allowed. Their 14.3 pts. per game ranks 3rd in franchise history.


  • The 49ers allowed just 23 first downs on 3rd and less than 4 yds.(23 of 54 - 42.6 pct.), which ranked 1st in the NFL.


  • The 49ers registered 10 punt returns of 20-or-more yds. in 2011, which ranked 1st in the NFL.


  • The 49ers were the only team in the NFL not to allow a return of any kind for a TD, in 2011.


  • The 49ers defense allowed opponents to score on just 23.3 pct. of their possessions, which ranked 1st in the NFL, in 2011.


  • The 49ers converted 9 of 14 (64.3 pct.) 4th down attempts this season, ranking 2nd in the NFL.


  • The 49ers outscored their opponents 380-229. The +151 scoring differential ranked 4th in the NFL, in 2011. It also was the highest scoring differential by the 49ers since 1998 (+151).


  • San Francisco registered a QB rating of 96.8 when they faced a blitz, which ranked 3rd in the NFL.


  • The 49ers had an average time of possession of 32:03 per game, which ranked 3rd in the NFL.

Matchups: 71 - First postseason matchup
Series Record: 49ers lead series 45-24-2
49ers Home Record vs. Saints: 49ers lead series 22-11-2
First Meeting: 10/22/67, 49ers win 27-13, at SF
Last Meeting: 9/20/10, Saints win 25-22, at SF
Current Streak: Lost 6
Longest 49ers Win Streak: 8 - (9/15/73 - 11/27/77)
Longest Saints Win Streak: 6 - (10/20/02 - Present)
Most 49ers Points: 42 (11/22/93): 42-7 at SF
Most Saints Points: 43 (11/23/69): 43-38 at NO
49ers Shutouts: 5, Last on 1/6/02, 38-0, at NO
Saints Shutouts: None

2011 Statistics

49ERS (rank) SAINTS (rank)
13-3 (1st NFCW) Record 13-3 (1ST NFCS)
23.8 (t-10th) Points per game 34.2 (2nd)
310.9 (26th) Total Offense 467.1 (1st)
127.8 (8th) Rushing Offense 132.9 (6th)
183.1 (29th) Passing Offense 334.2 (1st)
32:02 (4th) Possession Avg 31:46 (5th)
14.3 (2nd) Points allowed/gm 21.2 (13th)
308.2 (4th) Total Defense 368.4 (24th)
77.3 (1st) Rushing Defense 108.6 (12th)
230.9 (16th) Passing Defense 259.8 (30th)
42 (t-7th) Sacks 33 (t-19th)
23 (t-2nd) Interceptions 9 (t-28th)
+28 (1st) Turnover Differential -3 (t-19th)