~ New Orleans Saints Vs. San Francisco 49ers
~ Monday, September 20 2010 at 8:30 PM Eastern on ESPN
~ Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California
So it’s been a few (few?) days since the New Orleans Saints played in their last regular season game and yes, we are just talking about between weeks one and two of the 2010 year. San Francisco on the other hand probably wishes they had a little bit longer until having to step onto the field with the defending Super Bowl champions. Tight end Vernon Davis is more than ready though.
“I strongly believe we have the better team going into this game,’’ the 49ers tight end said. “It’s exciting because we know that they’re competitive. But we’re not worried about them being Super Bowl champion or anything like that.”
Asked about the prospect of being covered by Pro Bowl strong safety Roman Harper, Davis continued, “Is that No. 41? No, I don’t think he can check me man-to-man, one-on-one.”
Davis wasn’t the only one who had things to say about the game though. Coach Mike Singletary knows that his team could do nothing last week to stop Matt Hasselbeck as the Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback shredded the 49ers in a 31-6 loss for the boys in maroon and gold. Singletary was very short when answering questions, but confident.
He was asked how they planned on stopping Drew Brees, and Singletary responded, “We will not try to stop Drew Brees, we will stop Drew Brees.” Fair enough.
When asked how his offense would do after such a poor showing in Seattle, he responded with, “We will not try … we will move the ball and we will score.“
Someone either has an awful lot of faith in a team that severely underachieved in week one or he is just trying to instill confidence in his team and not show them that he is afraid. I’m one of those guys that is a firm believer in teams always believing that they will win the games they go to play. If you don’t believe you can win, then why play the game at all? Perhaps Singletary is of that very same logic, but he’s surely got a lot of courage to come right out and say it like that instead of just letting it be known in the locker room.
Good for him. Let’s see how it works against a vastly improved defense and an offense that is going to bounce back and be as explosive as last year. My gut feeling tells me it will be week two.
What to watch for on Monday night:
- The Saints have won the last five meetings against their former NFC West foes. New Orleans is also looking to go 2-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
- Reggie Bush isn’t going to be bothered by all this stuff going on with him and the Heisman Trophy. He is going to be focused on the game and knowing that time has gone by now and things are over. USC may be suffering and being punished now for incidences that possibly went on years ago, but nothing can be done about it now. Bush’s mind is on the 49ers which is evident when he said, “It’s at their field, home field advantage. The crowd’s going to be behind them and anybody who knows Mike Singletary knows how fierce of a competitor he was.“
- 49ers’ linebacker Patrick Willis is by far the leader of that defense and one of the best linebackers in the NFL period. He is going to be hard to stop and probably try to cause havoc throughout the entire evening by not only stalking the middle of the field but trying to blitz through the line and get to Brees. Stopping Willis is going to be a big step in the Saints’ offense maybe finding its spark this season.
- Garrett Hartley may not be in jeopardy of seeing someone else come in to compete for his job just yet, but he is certainly walking on thin ice. After a stellar second-half of the season last year and a perfect preseason, Hartley missed his only two field goal attempts against the Vikings making one wonder if Sean Payton would start bringing in some kickers for a try-out or two. Nothing has been happening so far during the long time off, but if Hartley has another rough outing then he may have to start worrying.
- Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper know what they are doing back in the safety positions, but this will only be Jenkins’ second start at safety after converting from cornerback and taking over for an injured Darren Sharper. Jenkins needs to stay on his toes in this one because the Vikings were without a big time wide receiver and their main threat was tight end Visanthe Shiancoe who was eventually contained. The 49ers have the tall and athletic Michael Crabtree who is an excellent receiver and just knows how to find the ball. If Crabtree and Davis are held in check, then the Saints will successfully have taken away Shaun Hill’s primary targets.
- Speaking of Hill, the goal of the saints has to be to get him passing the ball as much as possible. If San Francisco has to turn to their passing game, then they are in trouble because it means Frank Gore has been rendered ineffective and the Saints probably have a decent lead. Another good thing is that Hill just doesn’t have the athletic ability or experience to lead a team to a victory, especially of the come back variety, strictly on his arm.
One has to wonder just what this long period of time off will do to the Saints. It’s certainly gotten them well-rested and allowed a lot of lingering injuries to heal up. The time off could be good for them and give them an extra bit of incentive to get back into a groove and be ready for the season to sort of “begin” all over again. Others are concerned that this game against the struggling 49ers might be seen as sort of a glorified “trap game,” but it’s hard to believe Payton or Brees allowing that to happen.
Look for the Saints to come out on Monday night with a defense that is fired up and an offense that wants to catch up with them. Saints win it 31-14.
For more coverage on Monday night’s big game, check out some back and forth questions from myself and 49ers Examiner Samuel Lam.
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