Robert Saleh Acknowledges Saints Offense as "very difficult challenge"
Jose Luis Sanchez III
The pressure is on for the San Francisco 49ers who saw their comfortable position as a No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff race fall to No. 5 as a Wild Card. With four games left in the season, the 49ers still have a good chance to climb back into a first-round bye position.
In order to execute that climb back they must first handle their business Sunday with the New Orleans Saints. This matchup will complete a historic three-game stretch of facing the highest combined winning percentage of teams this late in a regular season. The Saints present multiple problems for the 49ers, especially when it comes to their offense.
“I still see the same stuff on offense." Robert Saleh assessing the Saints offense. "I still believe that they’re still an explosive offense. Obviously, they went and Drew Brees missed a pocket of games there and they’re transitioning back into it, but they’re still putting up, they’re still getting a lot of yards, they’re still putting up points. I know they had the one bad game against Atlanta, but other than that, they’ve been putting up yards and points and they’re still going to be a very difficult challenge to keep at bay.”
Much like with their matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, this game could come down to how much can the defense of the 49ers slow down the offense of the Saints. That is not to say that defense of the Saints isn't threatening, but that the bread-and-butter of New Orleans is their offense. Drew Brees is, of course, the most notable one. But the other talents on the offensive side of the ball create a handful of concerns just on their own.
Michael Thomas has by far been the best wide receiver in the league this season. At least if you're looking at it from a statistical standpoint. Richard Sherman and the rest of the corners will have their troubles guarding him.
“He’s big, his foot speed and quickness is pretty elite." Saleh on what makes it tough to defend Thomas. "But, he’s so strong at the point of attack and can catch the football. He’s an all-around receiver, excellent route runner.
Thomas floats all over the formation from the slot to the outside. Every one of these cornerbacks for the 49ers will need to be ready for the challenge. Just like how the front-seven of the defense will need to be alert when Alvin Kamara is handed the ball. He isn't having the same season numbers wise as last year, but make no mistake - Kamara is one of the best running backs in the NFL. This is the toughest challenge defending a running back that the 49ers have had since facing Christian McCaffrey.
Kamara is that versatile and capable of taking any handoff or reception to the house. Once again, the defense of the 49ers will be tasked with the responsibility of keeping the game within reach. Despite a shaky win against the Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving night, the Saints are still an elite team. This is a game that will have minimal room for error. The 49ers have to close this game out with a win or their hope for a first-round bye will become bleak.