The San Francisco 49ers managed just one sack in Week 13 against the Baltimore Ravens, although that number should see significant improvement against the New Orleans Saints this weekend.
The San Francisco 49ers have to feel somewhat happy they don’t have to deal with mobile dual-threat quarterbacks for a little while, especially after the team’s Week 13 defeat at the hands of quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
San Francisco managed just one sack in that game, frequently watching the elusive Jackson scramble away from pressure to either pick up yardage with his legs or through the air by extending the play.
The Niners’ Week 14 task won’t be easy, as they travel to take on the 10-2 New Orleans Saints, who just happen to own the No. 1 seed in the NFC after head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad was there all season long up until this point.
And while Saints quarterback Drew Brees has himself a Hall of Fame resume, he’s not exactly the most elusive of signal-callers.
This plays right into San Francisco’s pass rush, which was held in relative check against Jackson and the Ravens a week ago.
The Saints have done a good job protecting both Brees and his backup, Teddy Bridgewater, this season and have allowed only 21 sacks, which is tied for sixth best entering Week 14. Football Outsiders, meanwhile, ranks New Orleans’ offensive line seventh in pass protection with an adjusted sack rate of 5.8 percent.
So, why would the 49ers expect to improve against these standings?
Out of all the opponents the Saints have faced this season, only the Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers are in the top 10 in sack production this season. San Francisco, meanwhile, is second in sacks behind the Panthers with 45. Those Panthers managed four sacks in their lone game so far against New Orleans back in Week 12.
There’s another wrinkle in the Saints’ hopes to thwart the 49ers pass rush. Veteran left tackle Terron Armstead is out with an ankle injury, and he’ll likely be replaced by Ethan Greenidge, whose primary responsibility will be to guard against rookie EDGE Nick Bosa, who already has eight sacks on the season.
The 49ers could also get fellow EDGE Dee Ford back from a hamstring injury, too.
But the biggest caveat is how Brees has handled pressure this season. Brees hasn’t faced too much four-man pressure this season, seeing it on just 65 total snaps. During that stretch, however, Brees’ passer rating is just 76.3 with a 60.7 completion percentage, per Pro Football Focus, compared to numbers of 112.7 and 77.7, respectively, without pressure.
Brees isn’t a scrambler of course, which means he needs to get the ball out quickly against a fast pass rush. He’s done this well this season, averaging a 2.55-second throw time, according to NextGen Stats.
Still, San Francisco’s pass rush stands to have a much more sizable impact in this game than it did in Baltimore, meaning one should expect a greater deal of success.
And the 49ers could use that success in New Orleans when they take on the Saints in what could be a crucial playoff-impacting contest.