But what I believe in does change, though. Religion, marriage, eating meat, skinny jeans, being a size 4, dogs, jobs, dreams…yeah, I might be on the fence about a lot of things, to be fair. However the one thing that I have and continue to believe in whole heartedly is the San Francisco 49ers. I believe and therefore, I am faithful.
My 49er History- 1979 to Present:
In 1981, the 49ers would break out of the mold and play like the champs that they are. They breezed through the regular season and faced the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC Championship. In the fourth quarter of the game with only minutes remaining, Joe Montana threw a pass to Dwight Clark that would be remembered for decades as “The Catch.” The catch made by Clark – a leaping, masterful play – would give the 49ers the points necessary to take out the Cowboys and head to their first ever Super Bowl game.
The 49ers would dominate the league in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, winning Super Bowls in 1984, 1988, 1989, and 1994. Wide receiver Jerry Rice and cornerback Ronnie Lott, as well as QB Montana, carried the team to repeated success. From this 1980’s and 1990’s dynasty, the 49ers have become one of the most successful teams in the NFL. The 49ers have won five NFL championships – all Super Bowls – for an NFL-best record in Super Bowl competition with no losses.
San Francisco was also the first team to win a record five Super Bowls – Super Bowl XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX. Also in the franchise’s impressive winning repertoire are five conference championships and 17 divisional championships.
Since the early 1990’s, the 49ers have failed to post a solid winning record. In the 2000’s, the team has been in the process of rebuilding its offense to its former glory. 2002 was the last playoffs the 49ers have seen…until now.
Saturday, January 14th, the 49ers meet the New Orleans Saints in the Division Playoffs and it is going to be their hardest match up yet. I have been here before, on the eve of a massive game, nervous, anxious, excited, and scared. I have watched Joe and Jerry tear shit up and Steve get his head bashing in time and time again. I love Lott, Craig, the Fridge, and Tommy Thompson (God Bless his parents for that one). I am wishing for a win, but I KNOW that this is going to take critical strategy and inventiveness by our coach and players.
If the Niners have a chance at beating the truly amazing Saints (hey! Just cause I’m a Niner fan, doesn’t mean I can’t have love and support for another team…geez!), here are four ways that might help them move onto the next round, and a possible Super Bowl Win.
1. Win with the Passing Game
In case you missed it, the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford threw all over the Saints defense Saturday night. They did it mostly by throwing to the freakiest of freaks at receiver: Calvin Johnson.
The Niners have a player who resembles Calvin Johnson in freakish athleticism. Additionally, Michael Crabtree has elite athleticism and speed. Those two players could create some big plays for the 49ers, enough to cause the Saints defense significant problems.
This is most likely, given the Saints’ struggles against the pass at times this year and the 49ers’ common game plan when playing against teams with explosive offenses. Against such teams, the Niners actually come out throwing in hopes of establishing some big plays and a lead to give their defense an advantage.
The Saints need to be prepared for the Niners to come out throwing early. If the Niners can hit a few big plays, it would allow them the opportunity to play with a lead—exactly what they are hoping to do.
2. Win with Special Teams
These two teams bring to the game the two best punters in the NFC, great veteran kickers and explosive returners. As a result, they have the best special teams of the teams remaining in this season’s playoffs.
So, it would seem unlikely that either would gain a huge advantage from this area of the game. But if the 49ers are able to gain that advantage, it would go a long way to acquiring an advantage in this football game.
Unlike the Saints, the Niners are almost always going to kick on fourth down—be it a punt outside the 40 or a field goal inside 40. For that reason, field position could be gained, making it more difficult on the Saints to score touchdowns—something they’ve struggled with on the road (mostly because of penalties).
That being said, the Niners know they aren’t going to win this game just by kicking field goals.
3. Win by Rushing Four
Though the Niners are a base 3-4 defense, they line up four guys on the line and rush those four on a large amount of defensive snaps.
Saturday, that is the Niners’ best chance to slow down this explosive passing offense. If the Niners have to blitz much, they will get shredded by the veteran signal-caller on the opposite side of the field.
By keeping seven in coverage, that gives San Francisco their best opportunity to cover the Saints’ multiplicity of options. They have done a good job against explosive offenses such as Detroit, New York Giants and Pittsburgh, rushing four and playing coverage.
But they have also given up the fifth-most explosive pass plays of any team in the league. These generally take place when the Niners get crafty and try to rush more than four.
It’s really a pick-your-poison situation for San Francisco. You can rush four and let Brees move the ball methodically, hoping to create enough pressure that he can’t hit some intermediate throws. Or, you can blitz him, knowing he’s likely to pick you apart but obviously gaining a more likely advantage in pressure.
The option seems quite obvious if you’re Vic Fangio. You have to make Brees feel pressure with four.
4. Win by Possessing the Football
The Niners cannot come back against this explosive Saints team. But if they’re able to get ahead, run the football and force the Saints to kick field goals, they could win.
Frank Gore probably won’t rush for 100 yards in this game, but if he can get 25 carries, that figures to bode well for San Francisco.
Though the Saints are among the most explosive offenses in NFL history, they are also one of the best in the league at possessing the football. The Niners need to find a way to keep the ball away from Drew Brees. If you give him enough shots, eventually he’ll take advantage.
To all of this, I say to my beloved San Francisco 49ers: GOOD LUCK!!! Play hard, play smart, play your usual awesome defense, and dear God, let Alex Smith score touchdowns.
That is all. Faithful over and out.