NFL Football

48
Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
San Francisco 7 21 7 13 48
New Orleans 13 14 6 13 46
46
10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET18:00 GMT2:00 11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST12:00 PM CT22:00 UAE13:00 ET16:00 , December 8, 2019
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana  Attendance: 73,038

49ers-Saints Preview

According to STATS
According to STATS

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

  1. Since the NFL's realignment in 2002 placed the 49ers and Saints in separate divisions -- they had both been in the NFC West since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970 -- New Orleans has won eight of the 10 regular-season matchups. That is New Orleans' best record against any NFC opponent since 2002.
  2. The 49ers fell to the Ravens, 20-17, in Baltimore in Week 13, the 49ers' second loss by three points this season (Week 10 versus the Seahawks). The last team to finish a season with zero losses by four points or more was the 2007 Patriots, who finished 16-0.
  3. The Saints defeated the Falcons, 26-18, in Atlanta last week. New Orleans returns home where it is 5-1 this season, the one loss came against the Falcons in Week 10. New Orleans has not lost at home to a non-divisional opponent since Week 2 of 2017 versus New England (12 straight wins since).
  4. Raheem Mostert had a career-high 146 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in the loss to the Ravens. Mostert, undrafted out of Purdue in 2015, has 539 rushing yards this season, three yards behind Matt Breida, undrafted out of Georgia Southern in 2017, for the 49ers' lead this season.
  5. Jared Cook led the Saints with 85 receiving yards on three catches in the win over the Falcons, the first time someone other than Michael Thomas has lead New Orleans in receiving yards since Week 3 (Alvin Kamara; 92 yards). Cook's 14.3 yards per catch this season leads all qualified tight ends.
  6. The 49ers' defense has 45 sacks this season, second most in the NFL (Panthers -- 46), and the Saints' defense has 40 sacks, tied for fourth most in the league. While San Francisco leads the NFL with 21 sacks on third down this season, New Orleans is tied for 11th with 13 third-down sacks.
Team Comparison

San Francisco
 
New Orleans
29.1 Points 24.8
242.7 Pass Yds 267.4
148.0 Rush Yds 107.3
24 Takeaways 18
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Drew Brees and the Saints are ready to up the ante.

A third-straight NFC South title has been wrapped up. Next on the list is a second straight No. 1 overall playoff seed in the NFC, a goal New Orleans (10-2) can get closer to accomplishing on Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers (10-2) visit the site of their last Super Bowl appearance.

"We all know what this game means," Brees said.

And so do the Niners, who had the inside track to the top seed until they lost last week at Baltimore.

"The more you win, the more people like to say, `Isn't it easier or more relaxing now that you have a good record?'" Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said. "It's totally opposite. The more you win in this league, the harder it gets."

Especially this week.

The Saints have won three straight and nine of 10 as they meet a 49ers team that has dropped two of four after an 8-0 start.

For relatively inexperienced QBs like the Niners' Jimmy Garoppolo, such games are as much about an opportunity to grow professionally as to improve prospects for a first-round playoff bye.

"With a young team and everything, and myself included, these big games, these big moments ... it'll only help us going forward," Garoppolo said. "It's just about stepping up in the right situation, the right crucial times and just making the plays that are there for you."

Saints coach Sean Payton sees San Francisco as "a good test," given the Niners' top-ranked defense, led by a line full of first-round draft picks. And while Garoppolo is an adept passer with proven receivers at his disposal, he's also had the luxury of leaning on a deep and effective running game to slow down opposing pass rushes.

"These guys, I'm telling you, just when you watch this team play, defensively and offensively and in the kicking game, they're as balanced a team" as there is, Payton said.

HILL COUNTRY

While Brees, NFL-leading receiver Michael Thomas and dynamic running back Alvin Kamara remain the Saints'primary producers on offense, third-string QB and utility player Taysom Hill is becoming more of a menace to opponents. In his most recent game, he deflected a punt to set up his short receiving touchdown and later ran for a pivotal 30-yard score.

"He's a factor every week for them, whether it's at quarterback or any of the positions except for (offensive) line is, I think, the only one I haven't seen him play," Shanahan said. "He's an unbelievable player on special teams. There's no doubt we're going to see him, we just don't know exactly how."

RUN, RAHEEM, RUN

Raheem Mostert began the year low on the depth chart for San Francisco's running backs but he has been perhaps the Niners' most effective runner. He had a breakthrough game last week with 143 yards and a TD in a loss to the Ravens, the biggest rushing day for a Niners back in three seasons under Shanahan. Mostert is second on the team this season with 538 yards rushing - 3 fewer than Matt Breida - and his 5.9 yards per carry are second in the NFL to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

"When Raheem came in, just the way he ran and some of the looks he got. He got some good looks, but then he took advantage of those looks. The way he was going, we just stuck with the hot hand," Shanahan said of the decision to stick with Mostert over starter Tevin Coleman.

PRESSURE PACKAGE

Like the Niners, the Saints have had success taking down quarterbacks. Last week they had nine sacks to bring their season total to 40, led by former California standout Cameron Jordan's career-high four.

"He's extremely strong and very aggressive," Shanahan said of Jordan. "He never turns anything down and keeps coming every game, all year long."

BLANKET COVERAGE

The 49ers have been on an impressive pace when it comes to pass defense but figure to get one of their toughest tests of the season this week. San Francisco is allowing only 134.3 net yards passing per game, nearly 30 yards better than the second-ranked Patriots and on pace for the fewest in the NFL since Miami allowed 114.1 in the strike-shortened 1982 season. A defensive line that ranks second in the league with 45 sacks has played a major part, but the secondary has also been outstanding, led by cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman's status this week is in doubt with a knee injury, but Ahkello Witherspoon is healthy again and Emmanuel Moseley fared well earlier this season when Witherspoon was hurt.

STAYING EAST

Instead of flying home after last week's game in Baltimore, the 49ers opted to spend the week in Florida instead to avoid more cross-country flights and another time change. That strategy worked well in September when the Niners spent the week after the opener in Tampa by practicing in Ohio before a 41-17 win at Cincinnati. This is the fifth time since 2011 that the Niners have stayed on the road between games. They won the second contest three times, losing only in 2016 in snowy Chicago after practicing in Orlando.

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AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Updated December 6, 2019

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