Okay, faithful, a new week, and a new opportunity to be great. It’s no question the loss to Baltimore was tough, but the show must go on, and it will indeed do so. And can we get a sigh of relief that this week we’ll be in ideal playing conditions and in a dome? I know inclement weather is a part of the game, but I also know that same weather affects the game as well.
Before I go any further, allow me to tend to my manners and welcome you to (or back to) the Silverado for this week’s ride. Go ahead, strap in, get comfortable, and we’ll be on our way down to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints. As always, during the ride, we’ll briefly discuss the last game vs. the Ravens, along with this week’s game, and go over a few key highlights as well.
Okay as we’re about to be on our way to invade the Big Easy, that said let’s get into what Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, General Manager John Lynch, and what the 49ers will need to cook up one more great tasting dish in the form of a victory in their third and final “gauntlet” game. The mission: subdue and disarm Drew Brees and company to improve to complete the gauntlet winning two of three and 11-2 overall.
The return of shark week: GIVE BREES THE RODGERS TREATMENT
I have to start this section by giving credit to the individual that coined “shark week,” none other than Brian Baldinger, aka Baldy. I’m a pretty hyped dude as it is, and love defense, but listening to Baldy takes me to a whole new level of hype as if I’m suiting up. Don’t take my word for it, go ahead and roll tape, we’ll pick up our conversation afterward.
See what I mean? No way you watched that and didn’t feel like you ready to run out on the field and make plays. And if you don’t, we may want to stop a hospital along the way because your pulse may be weak. Okay, I’ll throttle back as maybe it’s just me. But as he said in the tweet, “Rodgers (Brees this week) has watched it on tape, but he doesn’t know what it’s like to be in the middle of a shark cage, with sharks coming at you.”
It’s feeding time faithful, time to repeat that performance vs.: Rodgers, but this time down in New Orleans. Not taking anything from future Hall of Famer Brees, but this 49ers defense has its way with pocket passers. Rodgers experienced at shark week, resulted In a 38-7 thrashing. The 49ers defense held Rodgers to 2.1 yards per attempt in the first half, sacked Rodgers five times, and he finished the night 20/33 for 104 yards. Hey Drew, nothing personal, but it’s feeding time, and this 49ers defense is famished.
This gam of sharks (defense) terrorized Rodgers without one of their deadliest sharks, #55, Dee Ford. Based on the below injury report, he’ll partake in shark week and be one of those screaming sharks coming off the edge Baldy mentioned.
With Ford no longer on the injury report and added to this shiver of sharks opposite Bosa, and the interior sharks feeding, we should be able to see another Brees meme-like Ahmad Brooks provided us years ago, but hopefully minus the flag.
Now, of course, there’s no intention to try and hurt Brees, just get him to the ground. That said, GO GET HIM!
How bout a quick Jeopardy break:
This is the type of passer the 49ers defense faces that coined the term “shark week”
What is a pocket passer?
Pocket passer is right
Back to it. So long as the front four sharks can continuously harass Brees, keep him out of rhythm, prevent him from having time to find weapons like Michael Thomas, Tre’ Quan Smith, and Tedd Ginn, shutting down their passing game should be a breeze. See what I did there? Let shark week recommence.
And I’ll tell you what. After having to chase down quarterbacks like Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and Lamar Jackson, this 49ers defense chomping at the bit to face a stationary quarterback like Brees and add to their sack total of 45 on the season.
Though New Orleans has the 7th ranked offensive line in terms of pass protection, this 49ers pass rush should be able to feed at will and ensure Brees spends most of his time on the field, on the ground.
Keep Jimmy Garoppolo clean
This 49ers offensive line will have to ensure the Saints team leader in sacks (13.5) Cameron Jordan is held in check if they look to improve to 11-2 on the season. As of now, veteran left tackle Joe Staley is questionable for the game, but based upon his last performance coming back from injury in the Jadeveon Clowney nightmare, I’d like to think backup left tackle Daniel Brunkskill will still get the start or at least be active in the event Staley struggles. I’d also hope, if Staley does start, Shanahan isn’t too prideful to pull him and insert Brunskill. They need this game, and now is not the time to lean on veteran favoritism. Just saying.
Opposite those two, second-year right tackle will need to ensure he does his part keeping Jimmy Garoppolo upright as well. If this unit can provide ample time for Garoppolo, we’ll see more of Good Jimmy than Bad Jimmy as he has a clean pocket. If this indeed happens, the run, play action, and passing game should have ample opportunity to flourish. The goal: keep the Saints defenders on their side of the line of scrimmage. LET’S GO HOGS!
Establish balance on offense
With the running back room being fully healthy (Matt Breida is set to return), there should again be opportunities for this #2 ranked rushing attack (148 yards per game) to shine, eat up yards, and allow the play-action game to be effective.
If the 49ers offensive line can open holes for the running backs, it should look more like a track meet than a football game as each of the running backs can fly if given the needed daylight. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see either Raheem Mostert or Matt Breida take off like they were running the 100 m dash as we’ve seen them both do this season. On your marks, get set, go!
Be it the run, pass, or play-action pass; the 49ers can benefit from health on offense for their roster and lack thereof for the Saints.
From the Saints ... starting linebackers Kiko Alonso (thigh) and A.J. Klein (knee) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) December 6, 2019
So have: RB Zach Line (knee), G Andrus Peat (forearm) and TE Jason Vander Laan (head)
Based upon the above injuries to the Saints linebackers, tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk should be able to have big games matched up against backups at the second level.
Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel could also have big days facing a Saints defense, which is allowing 234.9 (17th in NFL) passing yards per game, especially if the run game is clicking as it should be with a healthy group of running backs. This should indeed be fun to watch if the 49ers take care of business upfront.
A strong performance from the linebackers and secondary
Though the 49ers defense is most popular because of their pass rush, they also have playmakers at the second (linebackers) and third (secondary) levels. The performance of this group will be important for a few reasons. For one, starting strong safety Jaquisky Tartt is out with a rib injury.
49ers S Jaquiski Tartt is likely out Sunday against the Saints with fractured ribs. The good news is Shanahan said Dee Ford was close to playing last week and not only will he suit up this week, but Shanahan is expecting a "big game" from Ford. https://t.co/dEAppqfY56— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) December 6, 2019
With the injury to Jaquisky Tartt, the secondary as a unit will need to maintain their high level of play, along with Marcel Harris continuing to showcase his talent and be the dawg he is when given the opportunity. Harris has flashed numerous times, but none more impressive than his walk down and strip of Lamar Jackson last week vs. the Ravens.
Harris is primed and ready for his chance to step up and uphold the reputation is this aggressive, opportunistic, 49ers defense.
Another stand out is stud linebacker Fred Warner, who is playing the best football of his career. Be it plays in coverage with pass breakups (PBU’s) or run stops, Warner has been a monster.
Over the last two games Fred Warner has:— PFF SF 49ers (@PFF_49ers) December 3, 2019
14 run stops (most)
91.6 overall grade (highest) pic.twitter.com/tShOGX7rQ0
His impressive season will need to carry over, and he and the linebackers will be tasked with helping slow down two of the Saint’s most dangerous weapons, Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill. Ah, yes, this will indeed be entertaining.
At the third level, the 49ers secondary hasn’t given up 100 yards receiving to a wide receiver since Week 2 at Cincinnati.
How about Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, and company they keep that streak going and make fantasy owner regret starting Micheal Thomas this week. Let’s go defense! ALL GAS, NO BRAKES!
We have arrived
Okay, faithful, it’s about that time. Between the faithful showing up invading New Orleans like it’s Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers defense on the verge of another shark week facing the pocket passer Drew Brees, and the team is as healthy as they’ve been in weeks, the 49ers should put on a show.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is an easy win by any means, and the team will need to play clean, sound football to end this gauntlet winning two out of three. That said, thank you for riding, I hope you enjoy the game and go in there and be as loud as possible representing and cheering on our 49ers. One last request before you go. You know how this goes, say it with me. ALL GAS, NO BRAKES! LET’S GO NINERS.