Saints Insiders Report with All49ers' Grant Cohn and Saints News Network's Kyle T. Mosley.
GRANT COHN'S KEYS TO VICTORY FOR THE NINERS
49ers Offensive Keys
The Return of the Jimmy Gimmes - Those are the shovel passes, screens -- anything that doesn't travel past the line of scrimmage. The gadget plays that have propped up Jimmy Garoppolo's stats since 2019. The stuff the 49ers used to beat the Rams and Patriots just a few weeks ago. Strangely, when backup quarterback Nick Mullens plays, Shanahan doesn't call those plays nearly as often, which is a big reason why the 49ers have lost more frequently with Mullens at quarterback. But when Shanahan calls his Jimmy Gimmes, it almost doesn't matter who plays quarterback for the 49ers.
Nick Mullens and Jordan Reed on Third Down - Shanahan can call all the Jimmy Gimmes in the world, but the 49ers won't sustain drives if Mullens doesn't make big throws on third down. And he won't have George Kittle or Deebo Samuel to throw to. Look for Mullens to target backup tight end, Jordan Reed, on third down. Reed is the 49ers best route runner and possession receiver when healthy, and he appears healthy.
49ers Defensive Keys
Take Away Drew Brees' Short Throws - The 49ers can't pressure Brees -- their pass rush stinks without Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, and Brees' passer rating against the blitz this season in a gaudy 119. The 49ers need to flood the underneath zones and force him to scramble or throw down the field because the Saints are a ball-control, move-the-chains offense. Force them to call lower-percentage passes.
Play Tarvarius Moore at Free Safety - Moore is the 49ers' backup free safety and their fastest defensive back. He has by far the most range of the 49ers safeties, and he didn't play much against the Saints last season. Marcell Harris started at strong safety and got burned. Look for Moore to take his place, because the 49ers will need a rangy safety in center field when they try to force Brees to throw deep.
KYLE T. MOSLEY'S KEYS TO VICTORY FOR THE SAINTS
Saints Offensive Keys
Drew Brees' Consistency - The effectiveness of Brees spreading the football to various targets was on full display against Tampa Bay last Sunday. Twelve different receivers caught the football for the Saints. This variance will prevent Kyle Shanahan's defensive squad from keying-in on one or two main targets like running back Alvin Kamara or wide receiver Michael Thomas.
The Big Homies - The Saints offensive line has been maturing and dominating opposing defensive lines in the first half of 2020. The 49ers are beat-up and lost without star defensive end Nick Bosa. Expect a heavy dose of the run game with running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray slashing and gashing the Niners' defensive interior.
Saints Defensive Keys
Edge Rushers Creating Havoc - Surprisingly, New Orleans defensive end Trey Hendrickson is ranked 3rd in the NFL with 7.5 sacks and not Cam Jordan or Marcus Davenport. Davenport's return from an early-season toe and elbow injuries has been the most significant impact player on the edge. He and Jordan's QB pressures, tip balls, arm redirections, and speed rushes have resulted in several "turning points" in Saints games. PFF has New Orleans at #1 with a 48% pressure rate since Week 5. The Niners banged-up offensive line will have to watch these three Sunday afternoon.
The Entire Secondary - The one word which comes to mind for this unit is FOCUS. The Saints corners and safeties are prone to mental lapses during contests. By doing so, they have allowed teams to climb back into contention with "chunk plays" to receivers and tight ends. Cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins tend to play down to the level of competition. On Sunday, they cannot allow themselves to have an undisciplined game against the 49ers receivers.