San Francisco 49ers: Keys to Beating the Saints

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Justin Smith and Aldon Smith celebrate a sack of Drew Brees in the 49ers' 36-32 victory over the Saints last January. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Justin Smith and Aldon Smith celebrate a sack of Drew Brees in the 49ers’ 36-32 victory over the Saints last January. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Being a fan of a sports team is about more than just celebrating their success. It’s about rooting for them during the good times as well as the bad times. And the San Francisco 49ers are certainly enduring some trying times.

Coming off a five-game win streak and a bye week, the 49ers were outpunched by Luke Kuechly and the Carolina Panthers. Despite holding Cam Newton and the dynamic Carolina offense to nine points, the 49er offense was only able to muster two field goals and zero touchdowns. Frank Gore was relatively effective in the first half, but was unable to get much going in the second. Colin Kaepernick looked simply overmatched, taking six sacks, missing open receivers, and proving incapable of putting together long-lasting drives.

Today afternoon’s matinee with the New Orleans Saints in Louisiana could prove to be the critical point in the 49ers’ season. A win against Drew Brees and Co. would put them back in the running for the NFC West crown and reestablish them as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. A loss would likely affirm the fact that this may be a mediocre team, simply fighting for their playoff lives.

In a way, this could be the most important game of the Jim Harbaugh era. So what are the keys to the Niners emerging victorious from this daunting matchup?

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Topics: Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers

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