4 Reasons Why The Saints-49ers Outcome Is Not The Foregone Conclusion Many Seem To Think It Is

Hey media, how about if we let the New Orleans Saints actually beat the San Francisco 49ers before we automatically put them into the NFC Championship Game against the Packers?

(Side note: and if the battle-tested Giants win today, we may want to hold off on anointing the Packers too…)

I made the mistake of turning NFL Countdown on for background noise while I edited Brandon’s Charles Barkley SNL recap, and in between Tom Jackson’s hyperbole, the weird supposedly musical noises coming from Cris Carter, and Chris Berman’s grunt-speak, I was floored by just how simplistic and ignorant each of these so-called “experts” was sounding in discussing (if you can call it that) the Saints’ next game.

Keyshawn Johnson summed it up when he said, to paraphrase, “I don’t think the 49ers can score 28 points on the Saints’ defense, but the Saints can definitely put up 45 on the 49ers.”

Oh really, Keyshawn?

Well, just as you surely are capable of doing or saying something with an ounce of humility, I suppose highly unlikely events like the Saints putting up 45 on the great San Fran defense are, technically, possible. But you might want to do some actual research, actually take a look at some statistics, before spouting off such asinine nonsense.

Here are a few reasons 49ers fans should just chuckle to themselves confidently every time a media member starts discussing the Saints moving onto the NFC Championship Game as being inevitable.

san-francisco-new-orleansImage source: Here

1. The Saints Are Magic At Home, But Mortal On The Road

If this game were in New Orleans, I’d jump right on the Saints bandwagon with everyone else. They are damn near unbeatable in the Superdome. The Saints are 9-0 at home this year, with victories by 17, 7, 55, 11, 25, 14, 29, 28, and 17.

So not only has no one beaten the Saints in New Orleans, but only one team has come within a touchdown of the Saints at home, the Texans back in Week 3. And three of those last four scores came against playoff teams.

But on the road, on typically slower surfaces without their rabid fans, the Saints have not been nearly as imposing.

The Saints lost three times on the road this year. One loss came against the Packers in Week 1, so there is no shame there. The other two losses came against Tampa Bay and St. Louis, so there is great shame there. While you can chalk those two terrible losses up to New Orleans just overlooking those two woeful teams, what’s to say they don’t overlook the 49ers too? They did it last year in the playoffs, and the Seahawks beastmoded them right back home.

Regardless of how Saints supporters will explain away those losses, and to be fair New Orleans has won its last three on the road and last nine overall, there is no question that the Drew Brees-led offense is far less potent on the road.

In nine home games this year, New Orleans has scored 374 points, 46.75 points per game. That is ridiculous. But in eight road games, New Orleans only scored 207 points, 25.88 points per game, and in none of those games did the Saints play the league’s #1 scoring defense, which resides in San Francisco.

Which leads me to important point #2:

2. The 49ers Are Also Magic At Home, Mortal On The Road

Why is no one talking about this?

Wait, let me rephrase that, because surely informed, insightful NFL analysts are somewhere. (Right?)

Why are none of the football buffoons shoved down our throats on Sunday morning talking about this?

Guess who else has been outstanding at home this year. That’s right: the San Francisco 49ers. No, San Fran is not undefeated at home, but they are 7-1 in Candlestick, winners of their last six, and the only game they lost was one in which they outplayed the Cowboys but allowed the game to get to overtime where they were done in by the immortal Jessie Holley.

Consider these eight numbers: 17, 24, 3, 10, 20, 7, 0, 3. These are the point totals San Francisco has given up at home this year. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 84 points in eight games, or 10.4 points per game. No, none of those teams featured an offense as great as the Saints, but that is canceled out by the point I’ve already made: that the Saints’ 21-point average decrease in scoring on the road did not include any games against teams with the defensive prowess of San Francisco.

As you might expect, the 49ers’ offense is also much better at home. Here are their offensive outputs at home this year: 33, 24, 48, 20, 27, 23, 26, 20. That’s 221 points at home, for a supposedly “bad”  offense. That equals out to 27.6 points per game. For perspective, check out how that compares to the Saints’ average output on the road. (It’s almost two full points higher.)

Am I saying that the 49ers will have the better offense next Sunday? No. These Saints are a remarkable unit with a great QB, a great architect, terrific skills players, and they are on a roll. But don’t expect the 45-point Saints on Sunday like Meshawn assumes.

If the Saints hit their road scoring average of 26 points, they will score more against the 49ers than anyone did in San Francisco all year. They are certainly capable, but as the numbers above prove, the 49ers are also capable of putting up points, especially against a defense that is far more generous than their own (21.2 points per game given up, on average; 24.5 in road games).

3. Who’s Got The A Psychological Edge Better Than The 49ers? No-BODY!

As soon as the Saints won last night, I fully expected the majority of the media and fans to give them a pass to the NFC Championship Game. Something tells that while Jim Harbaugh may seethe about this outwardly, he is probably ecstatic inside.

If the Lions had won, San Francisco would be facing the Giants-Falcons winner. The 49ers already beat the Giants at home, and the Falcons are not exactly an imposing playoff presence on the road. In either case, over-confidence combined with rust from the bye week could have been an issue for San Francisco.

Because New Orleans won, the 49ers get to face a team they surely won’t take lightly, and they will do so with the us-against-the-world, nobody-believes-in-us mentality that is so often a part of the formula for upsets in big games (for those of you who would consider this an upset). If you don’t think Jim Harbaugh will play this particular motivational card to perfection, you haven’t been following the 49ers this year.

Example: The 49ers absolutely were shat on by the NFL schedule-makers this year. They played five games in the Eastern time zone this season, once having to do it in back-to-back weeks and another time have to do it on a short week (Thanksgiving). This has typically been a nightmare scenario for west coast teams, especially when the games are early starts as four of these games were.

Yet San Francisco went 4-1 in these five games. Why? Because Jim Harbaugh is proving himself as a master motivator and prescient manager of his football team.

The first two of these games came in succession in Weeks 3 and 4, so Harbaugh had the team stay in Ohio in between games. The trip not only served as a bonding experience for the team, but also a tremendous confidence builder. Harbaugh played it perfectly.

Why should we expect anything different from him this week? Harbaugh has pushed all the right buttons this year, and he’s got an easy one to push this week. It’s not often that a talented, confident 13-3 team coming off a first round bye and playing at home can play the no-on-believes-in-us card. San Fran can, and it will help to ensure razor-sharp focus and winning energy, especially early in this game.

4. San Fran Ain’t Afraid Of No Saints

Sure, the 49ers’ defensive coaches will likely have insomnia this week as they break down film of the Saints’ offense; but the players only have to converse with the ghosts of 2010 to realize that they’ve got the Saints right where they want them.

49ers-saintsImage credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez via SFGate.com

Last season, in Week 2, the Saints beat the 49ers 25-22 in Candlestick. Remember, this was in the midst of the 49ers terrible 0-5 start to the season. The 49ers tied it at 22-22 late, but Drew Brees engineered a quick, efficient drive to set up the game-winning field goal.

A few interesting stats from that game:

  • San Fran outgained the Saints 417-287
  • Drew Brees was about as good as he could be (28-38, 254 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) and the Saints still needed a last second field goal to win
  • San Fran lost the turnover battle 4-0…this year, no team has a better turnover margin than the 49ers

What does this result from last year mean? Not a whole hell of a lot, as 16 months have passed since it happened, and Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles have made the Saints infinitely more dangerous now than they were then. But, a lot of the current 49ers played prominent roles in that game, and walked away from it thinking they gave the game away. It suggests that San Francisco will respect the Saints without fearing them, which is the perfect mindset to have heading into a playoff game.


With all of the above said, I’m not ready to pick this game yet. That will come later in the week. But I am certainly not giving the Saints an automatic pass to the next round like so many other NFL analysts seem willing to do. It’s just lazy, ignorant, prisoner-of-the-moment “analysis” that the four points above highlight.

We’ll have to wait until next Saturday afternoon to see what the ultimate outcome is, but in the meantime don’t listen to the talking heads. This game is far from a foregone conclusion. In fact, it just may be the best game of the Divisional Round.

About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.


  1. Great article. Very good points.

    • I hope Patrick Willis shoves the football right down little man Drew's throat. ;)

      • saintscrazedfan says:

        I liked the article. Most of the analysts make this out to be a knock down drag out kind of fight which really excites me. How could this guy have gotten media about the 9er's/Saints when one other football player is dominating the news cycle? However looking forward to the game a great deal. Side note – Although 9er fans have done some serious trash talking, I will give them thumbs up for keeping it all football. Geaux Saints!

  2. As a Saints fan, I agree with at least one thing you said: no one should hand this victory to the Saints. Ok two things – most of the talking heads of sportscasting are idiots and believe me, we Saints fans heard a lot of idiocy when we were heading to the Super Bowl. Sure Breeze is recognized as a winner now, but he wasn't back in 2009. In 2009, we heard a lot of the same BS. SO – you're correct there.

    However, I think you're glossing over a few things. #1, the SAINTS don't believe for a second that they are a shoe-in. That was last year, when we lost to the Sea Chickens. THAT WAS A LESSON in playing the game in front of you. So don't assume Saints players and coaches are practicing for Green Bay. They are getting ready for San Francisco, end of story. There's plenty of time to worry about the NFC Champion next week.

    Next, our road record is misleading. We lost to Green Bay primarily due to the fact that we weren't ready game 1. You may recall a game you guys were not ready for – back in preseason, against the Saints. Our defense is 45% new this year and that didn't help us. But like you we have evolved.

    The loss to the Rams was predictable after we beat the Colts by 60+ points, tying for the largest run up since the NFL was created and stopping just short of the all-time, all-league record. The Rams game was a natural psychological obstacle and a fluke. And then you have Tampa Bay. Watch that game film and note we start losing when they take our coach out of the game. It was a tricky ploy but a possible suggestion for you guys next week. And THOSE are our losses.

    This game will be good, it will be closer because you are a more worth opponent and I will be on the edge of my seat. But don't assume the 49's are more motivated, and definitely don't assume your team isn't afraid.

    • Also good points by you. Admittedly, trying to ascertain what team may be more motivated or focused is a rather silly endeavor…because none of us know. If we could all predict what teams will come out flat and what teams will come out motivated, we'd all be millionaires! I do think the Saints will come ready to play, I just think San Fran will as well…and I think Harbaugh is such a master motivator that he'll be able to use the media slights to their advantage. One thing I will assume is that the 49ers are definitely not afraid. If they were going into the Superdome? Maybe. But not at home. That's been the great thing about the 49ers this year, is that they haven't been afraid of anyone, any week. They've been beaten, but not because they were intimidated. That's what will make this such a fun, competitive game.

      • Ted Smith says:

        I just love it when folks underestimate the 49ers …. you are both mistaken … 49ers would have made even more of a point at winning against the Saints at the Superdome … just to prove it "can" be done. That's how well this team now gel and that's how pumped they are … the stats mean little now, it all comes to who's best on the day. This may well be "the" contest of this season and the Superbowl is likely to be an anticlimax in footballing terms by comparison.

        • It's been 9 years since you've had a winning record. Can you really blame people for doubting you? A couple of years ago everybody was on the 49er bandwagon and they were a train wreck. A little history lesson: in 2006, after Katrina, the Saints were picked to do nothing. We went to the NFC championship. In 2007 and 2008 we were very solid picks to to go the Super Bowl. We didn't make the playoffs. In 2009 the romance faded and we were maybe a Wild Card team, we know how that ended. In 2010 we were a favorite to return to the Super Bowl. Didn't work out too well. After the Rams game we were pretty well written off, and with good reason. Things got better. Just enjoy the success, you don't know how long it will last.

          And I'm a Saints season ticket holder and a fan literally since their first game. I've seen them screw up enough times to never think there's no way they can lose. I don't know what's going to happen Saturday, but promise you that if they were playing in the dome there would be no way they could lose.

        • I'm with the niners for over 30 years and I think you got it Ted, niners and saints would be the ultimate getogether of the post season.

        • Rene Carr says:

          It's not about underestimation,but over on your part. Case in point..when you consider the Niners under the radar 13-3 record this season not to mention that they will be playing a team this weekend that has dealt with what the Niners will have to deal….and that is WINNING. And the consequences that go along with it…. consider playing a 16 game season where you are confronted with everybody's (A) game. The last thing anybody in SF can afford is to think that their team is that good until they have beaten a team that's really that good… I submit that when you think about the strength of the Niners division and the strength of those they played this season. It would be foolish to think they can beat a N.O. team that is built to beat a great running team with a really good defense.

          • I appreciate the comment, but I beg to differ. San Francisco won at Philadelphia, at Detroit (playoff team), beat the Giants (playoff team), and beat Pittsburgh (playoff team). They also beat a Seattle team twice that played excellent football late in the season. Be careful arguing how putrid the NFC West is when you have the Bucs and Panthers in your division. I'd give the NFC South the edge, but the difference is far from what it was last season. San Francisco can definitely beat good teams, especially at home. New Orleans beat Atlanta on the road, but also showed that they are capable of getting beaten by far lesser teams. While I don't expect to see anything resembling the Saints from the Rams game, I also don't expect to see anything resembling the team we just saw against Detroit. Unless they uncharacteristically turn the ball over to a team that hasn't forced many turnovers all year, San Fran will control the clock and make New Orleans earn every yard, every point they get. I'll take my chances at home in such a game.

          • phantom9277 says:

            Just remember when dismissing the loss to the Bucs….the Bucs were 10-6 the year before and 4-1 at the time we loss to them in Tampa. Their mindset was that they were going to control the division by winning the game against us, but we all found out that they were not very good at all. The Rams loss came two weeks later, no excuse for either loss, but sometimes things happen. The Saints offensive line was having big problems early in the season, but that has changed with personnel. The loss at the Packers was done before the game ever played, no Super Bowl winner in the last 20 years has lost the opening game the next year when their championship banner is hung, just doesn't happen. Your opinion on the Panthers is wrong also, they will be in the playoffs next year with the progress of Cam Newton.

        • Right on TED. The Article Nailed it!! 49ers by 4.

          Game was NOT a bore… LOL

    • Eat some crow. We'll just Glow… I was 17 and in S.F. 1982 when we First won the Super Bowl. I'll be there this year 30 years later to Do it Again. Saints are a Good Team and Played very Well. WE HAVE THE MAGIC !! Running with it… Peace

  3. thanks for the news i have felt that all year long these guys have been over looking the niners and not giving them credit where it is do but when they were losing they were right there in the spot light now it sounds like mikey from dallas thinking about how they got there but kick by the niners alot lol thanks again

  4. I was wondering how long it would take for the disrespect card to be played. The answer was only as long as it took for somebody to pick against you. I haven't heard ANYBODY handing this to the Saints. Most are picking that way but everything I've heard goes into chapter and verse about the road record, the grass record, the Seattle game, the SF defense, etc. Keyshawn is an idiot, but I do agree the Saints offense is too varied to shut down completely and the Saints have done well lately with monster backs (CJ, Peterson, Turner). On the other hand we lost to the Rams and the Rams would probably not have made any of the BSC bowl game. The thing is SF hasn't faced an offense like this and the Saints haven't faced a defense like this. Should be interesting.

  5. Great Article and good points. I have been a Niners fan for over 30 years and just as excited now as was in the 80’s about this team. It should be a great game.

    I too am shocked by the so-called expert analysis that we are fed each week. There is really no analysis that goes into what they say most of the time. In my job, if I am consistently off on my analysis, I would be fired! It is amazing that some of them are still on TV. I guess it is like the WWF, where it is all a hoax and just entertainment.

  6. phantom 9277 says:

    It's all a matter of perspective….from our side all we hear from the national media is how the Saints cannot go on the road and win…Brian Billick, Denni Green, most have all picked the 49er's to beat the Saints. It will be a good game and a good test for both teams. We are better than last year's team that won in San Fran and they are better than last year also. We shall see……….I believe in Drew!

  7. San Fran is getting over looked … and they should. They've had one hell of a season dont get me wrong but until they take down the Saints theyre still the same 6-10 team from last year. Many teams in sports history have turned out great performances all season long to fail come the big day. I'm not saying the 9ers cant win… im saying until they do… this season is equivalent to the rams beating the saints. Their D is great but the saints offense is too much to handle.

    • phantom9277 says:

      An amazing fact that the national media has completely ignored: the Packers and 49ers are in the twenty plus turnover ratio which is great and gives them generally a short field alot of times. The Saints are 14-3 with a negative turnover ratio……..not supposed to happen. The Saints are incredible if you look at the number of 80+ yard drives they have put together at home and on the road all season long. Oh by the way, the two losses to the Rams and Buc's were early in the season when the center was a free agent signing(who has since retired) and teams were sacking Brees with ease. Since the center has been replaced, the number of sacks dropped back to prior levels and the wins started again.

      • All great points here. And I'm frankly terrified that the turnover numbers – which to the extent San Fran has gotten them have been induced SOME by luck – will reverse on Saturday. If so, the 49ers have no chance. They have to force 2-3 turnovers and not do it themselves to win, at least if they are going to win like they've won all year.

    • That's part of the point though Jonny: the Saints offense is great, but not quite so great on the road. Their offense can be handled outside of the Superdome, and especially outside of domes; and who better to handle it than the league's best defense? I'm not all saying a 49ers win is inevitable. I'd still bet on Brees over Smith, and the game may well come down to that. It's the notion that the Saints will just roll over SF like they are Detroit in the Superdome that I hate. It's ignorant of the reality. The proof, as always, will be in the pudding on Saturday.

      • With the bitter taste of road defeat still in their mouths by a team who by all sports comentators "didnt belong in the playoffs" I just cant see them falling again. I actually think san fran has/had a better chance playing in NO because of all the talk "no one can beat them at home." Given the extra motivation that "they cant win on the road" will just be too much for san fran. Someone else said turn overs and that is key to every saints victory. If they lose the turn over battle … they will lose the game. Detroit had two freebies in the first half and got 0 points. Had they scored twice the game ends 45-42 Saints. If the saints can come out on top or even in the turn over category I cant see the 9ers scoring more than 17 points.

      • phantom9277 says:

        People seem to think the Saints expect to roll everybody by a bunch of points…not so, it just happens sometimes. The Saints realize that there is a window of opportunity for three or fours years hopefully with Drew that there is a chance to win Super Bowls and we have to take advantage while we can, especially this year as we were really ineligible last year for the Super Bowl and will be ineligible next year also. Why do I say this? History….No team has gone to the Super Bowl for the first time, won, and gone back again the next year. Actually the Saints beat the odds just by having a winning season after the SB last year. Next year, New Orleans hosts the SB…..check out the records of teams hosting the SB that year…..I don't think anyone has even had a winning season. Something always comes up, ask the Colts this year.

        The Saints don't expect anyone to fear them and actually would be satisfied to come out of the rest of the season with 1 point wins. Scores don't matter, wins do.

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