After Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints it will be either redemption, relevance or rout for the 49ers. Redemption will come with a win against the defending Super Bowl champs on a nationally televised game. Relevance will come with a loss however only if the 49ers play well on both sides of the football and stay in the game until the final minutes. Rout means a loss, a huge loss like last week that everyone is expecting tonight. I think the 49ers will get redemption tonight. They have their home opener on Monday Night Football and are retiring Jerry Rice’s number at half time. What better way to show you are not the team that faced the Seahawks than with a win against the Saints on Monday Night Football with Rice in the building.
Here are five things to look out for tonight.
Drew Brees and his speedy wide receivers vs. the Secondary:
- We all know about Brees and the Saints offense. Brees has one of the best arms and is one of the most accurate passers in the NFL. With the Saints offense using four wide receivers most of the game the 49ers secondary will need to step up if the team expects to win. The problem with that is the 49ers only have three healthy cornerbacks — Tarell Brown, Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer – and they also have to account for tight end Jeremy Shockey. The secondary was aggressive last week against the Seahawks which only paid off on the first pass thrown by Matt Hasselbeck that was intercepted by Clements. The 49ers defense cannot be as aggressive against the Saints wide receivers by getting pump faked and beaten by their speed. I don’t think the secondary should be cautious either but you have to pick your battles against Brees otherwise he will make you pay with a big touchdown pass. The 49ers secondary did well last season against Peyton Manning limiting the Colts to 18 points and also shut down Kurt Warner and the Cardinals offense at home last season. So they know how to stop really good offenses. But that was last year and this is Brees and the high powered Saints offense.
Frank Gore on Monday Night Football:
- Frank Gore is a stud on Monday Night Football. In four games he has rushed for 393 yards averaging 5.0 yards per carry and has two rushing touchdowns. His average rushing yards per game on Monday Night Football is 98.25. The 49ers are 5-1 under head coach Mike Singletary when Gore rushes for 100 yards or more in a game. They will need all 100 yards and more if they want to beat the Saints. Gore is the type of running back that can break for the big play so even if the 49ers find themselves down by more than one score they need to stick to the run to create a balanced attack so we don’t get into a pass heavy offense.
Alex Smith rebounds:
- Alex Smith will rebound back from his bad play last week. Whether it was the play calling issues or him having a bad game that lead to the loss he has to have a great game tonight. Otherwise, calls for backup quarterback David Carr to be the starter will begin. The Saints defense is really good and creates confusion for quarterbacks by playing different defensive fronts and coverage’s the whole game. Smith is a quarterback that is calm under pressure but his accuracy was the issue last week. The Saints defense will try to exploit this the same way the Seahawks did. This will most likely be a make or break game for Smith. If he plays well, even if the team loses, the game will be a huge confidence boost for Smith. If he plays bad, even if the team wins, it is the beginning of the end for Smith. Not many 49er Faithful believe in Smith as I do so this is his chance to prove the naysayers wrong.
49ers pass rush:
- The 49ers secondary will need all the help it can get and the pass rush will be a huge factor tonight in controlling the Saints offense. The Saints can rush just as well as they pass and the offensive line is a big reason why they are successful on offense. Brees is a quarterback that is hard to tackle and the pass rush needs more than just the one sack they got against the Seahawks in order to win. The 49ers pass rush will not get help from the blitz however. The secondary will need as much help as they can get from their linebackers and in their nickel and dime packages and blitzing takes away the help. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks is returning from injury and he was a big presence in the pass rush last season during the final five games. Expect Brooks to rotate with Travis LaBoy who had the 49ers lone sack last week. The outside linebackers that include Manny Lawson will be leaned on heavily in the pass rush as they will be the fourth pass rusher creating confusion. The defensive line alone cannot be responsible for pressure.
Offensive line must improve protection:
- This may sound obvious but if the 49ers offensive line cannot run block or pass protect the offense will stall. The two rookies on the line struggled last week. Left guard Mike Iupati struggled with run blocking and was on the ground on a lot of run plays. He seems to be trying to plow through the defenders and blocks upright which means he cannot get low to get angle on the defender to make running lanes. Rookie right tackle Anthony Davis struggled in pass blocking and did not play well against the Seahawks defensive ends all game. Look for the running backs and tight ends to help Davis out in pass protection. To make matter worst is right guard Chilo Rachal is listed as doubtful which means Adam Snyder or Barry Sims will start. The Saints defense will try to exploit the rookies and whoever is playing at right guard.
This is a must win for the 49ers. More so for the team’s unity and sanity as a 0-2 start will sound the alarm bells. With no clear favorite to win the NFC West the 49ers can start 0-2 and still have a chance at winning the division. The only way that outcome will be acceptable is if the 49ers compete with the Saints until the final seconds of the game. The 49ers schedule gets easier in the second half of the season but none of that will matter if the 49ers play as bad as they did last week. 49ers win 23-21.
Topics: 49ers, 49ers 2010 Season, Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Jimmy Raye, Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Mike Singletary, New Orleans Saints Vs. San Francisco 49ers: 5 Things To Look Out For Tonight, San Francisco 49ers, Vernon Davis