How SF 49ers limit Drew Brees, Saints in crucial Week 10 bout

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas (94) tackles New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas (94) tackles New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers are going to have a tough time defending Drew Brees and the Saints offense in Week 10, but there are some ways to do it.

It’s a fair assessment to think the New Orleans Saints will offensively dominate the SF 49ers during their Week 10 bout at Mercedes-Benz Superdome this Sunday.

True, a banged-up and shorthanded Niners defense has been notably effective this season, ranking 10th overall in the league with just 207 points allowed. But the Saints enter the contest following a scorching 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, and their offense sits at No. 4 overall with 244 points scored.

Based on the initial look, it’s looking like Week 10 will provide yet another blowout, the likes of which San Francisco has seen in back-to-back weeks leading up to this contest.

So, how do the SF 49ers contain quarterback Drew Brees and the high-flying Saints offense.

It won’t be easy. New Orleans is averaging 2.79 points per offensive drive this season, which is fifth best in the NFL. And Brees can seemingly connect with wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at will.

That said, there are some ways in which the Niners can limit Brees and Co. this Sunday.

SF 49ers can focus on Drew Brees throwing shorter passes

Perhaps it’s age, as Brees is now 41 years old. But Brees isn’t exactly throwing those deep passes he was so well-known for years ago.

True, Brees’ 74.0 completion percentage ranks No. 1 among qualifying quarterbacks this season, while his 2,120 pass yards ranks 16th over eight games played. And his 265 pass-yards average per game also ranks 16th, too.

That’s a pretty good indicator Brees is throwing much shorter passes than previously.

NextGen Stats backs up the claim, listing Brees’ intended air yards at 5.8, which is dead last among qualifiers.

How does this benefit San Francisco? Well, the SF 49ers should be able to cheat a little closer to the line of scrimmage and not worry so much about Brees throwing over the top and deep. He’ll get his yards, true.

Just not in massive-chunk fashion.

SF 49ers must focus attention on Alvin Kamara

Yes, Brees has those two prolific wide receivers, Thomas and Sanders, at his disposal. And both will likely do some damage to the Niners defense this Sunday.

But New Orleans’ leading yards-getter isn’t either of those two players, rather running back Alvin Kamara whose 1,036 yards from scrimmage is more than double that of any other Saints skill player. His eight net touchdowns scored is also, far and away, a team high this deep in the season.

Needless to say, Brees won’t hesitate to target Kamara out of the backfield, and the latter is looking like he’ll retain his hold on being a perennial Pro Bowler once this season is done.

Good thing San Francisco has a Pro Bowl candidate of its own, linebacker Fred Warner, to lock down on Kamara.

That’s what defensive coordinator Robert Saleh should do on Sunday: essentially “assign” his best defender to coverage duties on Kamara.

It could work, as Warner’s elite-level 90.3 pass-coverage grade is one of the highest given to a player at his position by Pro Football Focus. So, while Warner and the SF 49ers defensive front will look to limit Kamara on the ground, preventing the tailback from picking up yards through the air should be one of Warner’s primary focuses during the game.

All this might not make a massive difference, as the Saints will score points regularly and often.

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But if the Niners can make these notable adjustments, they might just do enough to keep the game within reach.