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49ers vs Saints - Keys to Victory and Score Prediction

Matt Andruscavage
Nov 14, 2020 at 1:54 PM


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This is not how most envisioned Sunday's matchup with the New Orleans Saints. It was supposed to be similar to last year and be a matchup of two heavyweights. Instead, the 49ers are hanging on for their lives with far too many key players missing. Out for this matchup are Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson Jr, K'Waun Williams, and Jaquiski Tartt. This is on top of all the players missing for awhile now like Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, Ronald Blair, Ben Garland, Weston Richburg, and Solomon Thomas.


For New Orleans, Michael Thomas looks set to make his return and make life difficult for the 49ers. He will be paired up with Emmanuel Sanders, the same receiver who helped the 49ers get over the top and become a Super Bowl contender last season. Also making his return to the field is Kwon Alexander.

Here are the keys to winning this game for the 49ers:

Where and When: Sunday, November 15 at 1:25 PM PT at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

1) Nick Mullens has to have a big day


If the 49ers are to have any chance on Sunday, Nick Mullens has to be able to not only be productive, but have something of a career day. He is efficient, completing 68.4% of his passes this season and has a good yards-per-attempt average (8.4), but like Jimmy Garoppolo, he has been lacking in the consistency department.

Who could forget the kind of day Garoppolo had last season against New Orleans when he threw for 4 touchdowns and 349 yards on 75% of his passes? It was probably his best performance. Mullens will likely have to have that kind of a day, but will have to do it with nowhere near of the offensive talent from last season, due to injuries.

Mullens will have to make quick, decisive throws, as well as get the ball downfield to have a chance. If the protection is there and receivers find openings, Mullens will have to deliver. Thankfully, Trent Williams is back this week.

2) The pass rush needs to get home


The defense has been able to generate pressure, though nowhere near the consistency with which it did so last season. There has been a lack of sacks, most notably from Arik Armstead. Against Drew Brees, the pass rush has to find a way to disrupt passing lanes and get home. This would be a great week for Armstead and players like Javon Kinlaw and D.J. Jones to register sacks. Kerry Hyder has been the most consistent pass rusher and if he has to do it alone this week, Brees will pick apart the 49ers.

3) Take the pressure off of Nick Mullens with a balanced attack


JaMycal Hasty has had a couple of chances to break out. This week needs to be the week. Hasty has the burst and the ability to finish runs, which make him the perfect back at this stage to lead the way. Jerick McKinnon also looks to be ready to get more touches. If the ground game can be effective, something it has not been in some time, Mullens won't have to do it all.

4) Big plays


Last season, it was all about the big plays. The deep touchdown to Sanders. Sanders' throw on a reverse to Mostert. The Kittle play on fourth down. The offense will have to produce big plays to compete with the Saints. Obviously, long drives that consume clock is also a good formula, but the offense needs to deliver the kind of back-breaking plays it did last season to win a game like this.

The defense also has to come up with sacks and turnovers. The special teams could also play a vital role with a big return or perhaps a blocked kick.

If we see a few of these kinds of plays, San Francisco has a chance.

Score Prediction


The bottom line is the Saints are too good and the 49ers are too undermanned in a game like this. Next week is the bye week and going into it at 5-5 with many players coming back does give the team hope. It will take a herculean effort to dispose of the Saints.

Realistically, the Saints will be the ones to make big plays and the 49ers will have their chances but will have to play catchup most of the day and will probably make a mistake offensively to prevent them from winning.

Saints 38, 49ers 24
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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