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49ers vs. Saints: New Orleans run defense spotty, gives up big plays

The New Orleans Saints are hard to keep up with, but one of the best rushing attacks in the league should be able to keep pace with the help of a strong defense.

Al Bello

The San Francisco 49ers have scraped by in close games because they've been able to run the ball effectively. We all know the 49ers have the No. 32 pass offense in the league, and we all know that Colin Kaepernick hasn't been quite as good as advertised this season.

We all know that Drew Brees has led the New Orleans Saints to the No. 2 passing offense in the league, as well. Brees has thrown for 25 touchdowns this season, second only to Peyton Manning, who doesn't count because he's ridiculous. Seriously, Manning, just up the difficulty to All-Madden and stop cheesing.

But anyway ... the Saints score a lot of points. Teams struggle to keep up with them offensively because the Saints have a strong secondary. The 49ers certainly won't be expected to put up big numbers through the air to keep pace with Brees. It's just not going to happen.

The 49ers' running game has carried them to victory before. It won't make for a 50-point game, but the 49ers aren't likely to allow 50 points anyway. Frank Gore has led the 49ers to the No. 4 rushing offense in the league, and they average 147.7 rushing yards per game on average. The top four is only separated by a few yards, too.

What's working in the 49ers' favor is the fact that New Orleans doesn't have a great run defense. They are No. 23 in the league and allow 117.7 rushing yards per game on average. Cameron Jordan has been particularly terrible at stopping the run. The 49ers should run in his direction more often than naught.

David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton are pretty good linebackers on the inside, but Will Herring isn't he best run defender, and the secondary's tackling is spotty (namely from Rafael Bush). These players are all capable of big plays, but they've shown a propensity for allowing big, big plays.

Chris Ivory ran for 139 yards on 18 carries against the Saints. He had over 100 yards on three of those carries, and a per-carry average of just 2 yards on the other 15. That's a good way to put that defense in perspective. Gore will get his yardage in chunks on Sunday, but if the 49ers are to keep up, they'll need to be big chunks and he'll need to get them often.