49ers key matchup No. 1: 49ers pass defense vs. Drew Brees

November 25, 2012, 6:51 pm
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This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Saints matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (FOX), at the Superdome.49ers pass defense vs. Saints QB Drew BreesTale of the tape
49ers pass defense: Ranked No. 2 in the NFL
Brees (9): 6-foot, 209 pounds, 12th season, PurdueThe 49ers trot out Colin Kaepernick on Sunday for his second NFL start, so there's a level of unknown facing the New Orleans Saints' defense.On the other side of the ball, the 49ers know exactly what they're up against.Shutting down Saints quarterback Drew Brees is not an easy task, and it comes with many levels of challenges. After all, the Saints' top four pass-catchers features two wide receivers, a tight end and a versatile running back."They have a lot of different weapons and they all can line up in different spots," 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers said.That means that while Rogers, who covers the slot receiver, will probably see more of Lance Moore than any pf the Saints' receivers, he had to prepare to face all of the Saints' receiving options."Their receivers, all of them, are good receivers," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "They don't have Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. But all of them are really good. That's the problem with this team."There's not one guy to play, 'Hey, if we can take this guy out, we've got a good chance.' All the receivers and (tight end Jimmy) Graham and (running back Darren) Sproles and their group of running backs are tough to stop. So you've just got to line up and play and you've got to win some one-on-one matchups."But those one-one-one matchups will constantly change through the course of the game. The only constant is that Brees will be the man on the distributing end. Brees has averaged 306.6 yards passing per game. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in an NFL record 53 consecutive games.This season, Brees has thrown 28 touchdown passes with the bulk of them going to four main targets. Graham has eight touchdown receptions, while, Marques Colston has caught seven scoring passes. Moore and Sproles have four touchdowns apiece.The 49ers' defense this season has done an exceptional job of limiting the big play, and they'll be put to the test on Sunday.Inside linebacker Patrick Willis is coming off one of his best games in coverage. Willis found himself matched in single coverage against Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte and he responded with a strong performance. Willis is also accustomed to covering tight ends, so he'll likely see plenty of Graham, who has 51 catches for 562 yards on the season.The 49ers will have to feature a group effort on Sunday. And they're facing a hot team. The Saints have won five of their past six games.Cornerbacks Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver must step up to the challenge. And safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner will be tested repeatedly.Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who entered the day with an NFL-leading 15 sacks, can make things easier on the secondary if he can administer some pressure on Brees. But Brees is not an easy quarterback to sack. He has been sacked just 16 times in 10 games."Brees gets the ball out quickly, but we can't have a clock in our heads because he can keep plays alive, too," Rogers said.

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