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physical San Francisco 49ers' defense 
By liekd001 on Jan 18, 2014 12:53 AM
physical San Francisco 49ers' defense

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said there's never been a game he felt was a perfect offensive performance. Not even Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, when the Saints set an NFL record for first downs (40), rushed for their highest total in 23 years (242 yards) and set a franchise record for total yards (625).

But he had to admit, as far as perfect games go: "Rarely do you get that close."

Against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the Saints likely will need another big offensive performance against a defense coach Sean Payton dubbed the best he's seen all season.

"This is a very good defensive front," Payton said. "They are physical. They have guys on the back end that are exceptional in coverage. The corners do a great job within their team."

The 49ers' defense has been top five for several years. And they haven't gotten any worse, Brees said with a smile.

"As good as they've ever been," he said. "Just an expectation level every time you play these guys, they're extremely disciplined, very talented, a lot of great players."

The 49ers are ranked No. 6 in total defense, No. 9 in passing defense and No. 11 in rushing defense. And they've mostly been doing it without outside linebacker Aldon Smith, the 2012 NFC Defensive Player of the Year, who left the team in late September to seek substance abuse treatment and just returned last week.

Smith, with 4.5 sacks, is still second on the team in that category despite missing several games. He's been successful getting to Brees in both meetings, hitting him six times and generating 2.5 sacks.

Saints linebacker Parys Haralson, who was traded from the 49ers earlier in the season, recalled the importance of getting pressure on Brees during their games. The 49ers were able to sack Brees nine times and get an addition 14 hits on him.

"He does a great job. This is my first www.49ersnflofficialprostore.com/82-Mario-Manningham-Red-Jersey.html year here watching him in practice, you see why he's actually that good," Haralson said. "Knowing he goes out and the way he prepares, preparation is everything."

With that in mind, it's no surprise "big" and "physical" were the words used the most by the Saints when describing the 49ers' 3 4 defense, one that's has gotten the better of the Saints in two straight games. The Saints lost to the 49ers, 31 21, at home last season, and also fell in a 36 32 shootout in the 2011 postseason.

"They're probably the most physical team we will play," said wide receiver Lance Moore. "They're definitely the most physical team we've played the last few years. That's just the agressive style that Jim Harbaugh has kind of implemented there. They've got tough guys."

The 49ers have been able to push around the Saints' offensive line in their past two meetings, forcing Brees to shoulder the load while New Orleans combined for only 96 yards rushing.

Brees, on the other hand, was 66 of 104 for 729 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions in those games. But he also had two interceptions returned for touchdowns against the 49ers last season, and the Saints weren't able to keep pace offensively in the fourth quarter.

"I'd say when you look at what they've been able to accomplish over the last two years is pretty impressive, and obviously the two times we've played them, it's been a tough matchup," Brees said.

After turnovers factored so much in the last two games (seven total), that's been on his mind, too.

"I think the biggest areas, things that they kind of pride themselves on is stopping the run, being extremely physical, getting the ball out," Brees said. "You've got a lot of ballhawks on that team."

Brees, who said Sunday's game isn't about revenge or retribution, has been at his best in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, throwing for 18 touchdowns to two interceptions in five games this season. And he could potentially pass Warren Moon for the No. 5 spot on the all time yardage list this Sunday against the 49ers.

At 48,893 yards, he's 433 yards from overtaking Moon (49,325).

"We've done a great job of feeding off our crowd at home," Moore said. "I'd say we've kind of created a Dome field advantage and hopefully that continues this week."

Sunday's game is the second of a tough stretch that includes the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers in the coming weeks, who are only one game behind New Orleans in the NFC South.

And with the 49ers and Panthers' tough run defense looming, the Saints' win against the Cowboys was the perfect time to start establishing the ground game.

"You don't want to be one dimensional against this team," guard Jahri Evans said. (In the 2011 playoff game) we lost Pierre (Thomas, concussion) early in the first drive. That kind of took the run game out of it a little bit. That's the main thing, you just want to have that balance against them."

Evans conceded that 242 yard rushing games don't happen every week, and they aren't expecting it again. But any semblance of a viable run attack will help keep the 49ers' defense honest.

"They're still going to come here and think that they're going to stop the run," he said. "We might not be able to get those 35 yard rushes like last week, but a good four yards is going to be good for us. .

"You know, over the last couple years they've been a defense that's kind of had our number a little bit, whether it be big hits, just getting to the quarterback, stops here and there. But at the same time, we've kind of rallied against those guys a couple Authentic Mario Manningham Jersey times too."
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