With a record of (6-3) in their NFC Western Division, the San Francisco 49ers are in a crucial must-win situation, to keep their playoff hopes alive. After the gut-wrenching (9-10) loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Niners have now transitioned their game mentality to their next demanding obstacle, the marching New Orleans Saints (7-2). Evidently, given their elite status as the current NFC champions, the Carolina tilt still unveiled many 49er blind spots that are in need of serious refinement, principally on the offensive end. Provided below is the perfect recipe for the 49ers to succeed against the marching Saints this Sunday.
1) Vernon Davis:
Get (WR) Vernon Davis more involved in the passing attack, give him extra touches on the pigskin to spice up his confidence. He is one of the biggest offensive pieces to this bleak 49er offense, alongside (WR) Anquan Boldin and the 30-year old veteran (RB) Frank Gore. Having Davis on the field gives the 49er offense their only option at the vertical deep threat. One vertical threat on the field will keep the secondary guessing, not knowing who else the rock will be thrown to either Boldin, (screen-pass) to Gore, (WR) Mario Manningham, or (TE) Vance McDonald. If the offensive backfield can find some separation, spreading the field shouldn’t be an issue.
2) Frank Gore:
The lone offensive spark for the 49ers’ would have the complete edge over the Saints’ despondent front seven, defending against the run (ranking 23rd in the league). Averaging almost 5 yards per carry, Gore could be the main focal point to winning this road game at the Superdome. Administering the strong running foundation in the 1st and 2nd half will be extremely paramount.
3) Protecting (QB) Colin Kaepernick:
The offensive line allowed (LB) Luke Kuechly’s Carolina defense to sack Kaepernick a career-high six times. The big offensive line consists of the following personnel: (LG) Mike Iupati, Pro-Bowler (LT) Joe Staley, (RT) Anthony Davis, (RG) Alex Boone, and (C) Jonathan Goodwin. These men have to do a better job protecting Kaep in the pocket, keeping him away from pressure, and giving him that extra time to fire his bullet-like passes to his appointed receivers. Performance-wise against the Panthers, this offensive front surely didn’t play like one of the best O-line’s in the league.
4) Unleash the speed:
Kaepernick carried the ball on only 4 attempts and accumulated a miserable 16 yards in total; compared to his 54 rushing yards and 2 TD runs against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Nevada star has to take advantage of his gifted athleticism and run the ball on more occasions down the field. His unbelievable playoff performance against the Green Bay Packers last year exemplified the reason why coach Jim Harbaugh chose him as starting quarterback in the first place (e.g. 56-yard TD run).
5) Converting on 3rd Down:
Since the 49ers are ranked dead last in the passing department, they still have to find an efficient way to convert more 3rd down conversions. Frank Gore can’t always be the solution to everything; receivers have to do their part as well. The Niners have 3rd down conversion rate of 37.5%, which is technically true because of their abysmal receiving core production. The more of these 3rd downs they convert on, the more the clock plays to their favor in the long haul.
6) 49er’s Tenacious “D” :
(DC) Vic Fangio has done a wonderful job on the defensive end of the football spectrum. The 49ers’ secondary has been exhibiting excellent chemistry with one another on the field, playing outstanding shutdown coverage; chiefly against the dreaded aerial attack. Currently, the Niners are ranked 9th in the NFL league in regards to their pass-defense; conversely, their defense against the run is in 11th place. The Niner “D” has to maintain that aggressive nature to keep (QB) Drew Brees uncomfortable in the pocket. The addition of sack-master (OLB) Aldon Smith into the defensive front will catapult this Niner defense by miles; depending on the number of snaps he receives from the coaching staff.
These are the 6 main ingredients that will turn this recipe into a delectable game-winning situation.