The 49ers defeated the Saints 31-21 on Sunday. Here is what we learned from the game:
1. The quarterback controversy continues on.
Jim Harbaugh talked about how he supports both players praising them, but ultimately one QB must be chosen. Even though it was expected to see Kaepernick be the starter, the team wouldn’t officially announce it until the day of the game. With the performance that he had against the Saints, it’s hard not to ride with the hot hand. Alex Smith has been cleared to play again. The decision on who will start will be made on Wednesday this week, according to Harbaugh.
2. The secondary answered the test against the Saints’ high-powered offense.
Statistically the 49ers’ pass defense has been above average, but the recent opponents they played haven’t proven how reliable or not they truly are. This time everyone contributed and the secondary was a reason Drew Brees struggled at times. Early in the game, Brees was able to find his targets and Lance Moore made some ridiculous catches. While Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers gave up plays, they were consistent at preventing any deep plays in crunch time. When the Saints were trying to make a comeback in the fourth quarter, the secondary shut the door on their offense with two forced turnovers on downs.
3. The special teams unit is inconsistent.
With the exception of Andy Lee continuing to be a Pro Bowl punter, the rest of the special teams didn’t have a good game on Sunday. Ted Ginn muffed a punt which led to a touchdown for the Saints. Even before that fumble, the kick returns and punt returns have not been as explosive from him compared to last year. David Akers missed a 50-yard field goal attempt and wasn’t even close. His 33-yard attempt was blocked by the Saints. If there’s one thing the 49ers should work on fixing, it would be the kickoff returns and blocking for field goals.
4. The depth on offense has taken a hit.
One play couldn’t have been more damaging to the 49ers as Kyle Williams and Kendall Hunter were both declared out for the season.
With Williams ruled out with a torn ACL, Ginn becomes the only punt returner out of active players. If the 49ers don’t like the performance of Ginn as a kick and punt returner, who takes his place? As a receiver, Williams was a slot receiver and it’s unknown who takes his place on the roster. This gives the opportunity for WR Randy Moss or first-round pick A.J. Jenkins to step it up.
Now that Hunter has been lost for the season, this is the chance for Brandon Jacobs and possibly second-round draft pick LaMichael James to contribute. Jacobs has been inactive in nine out of 11 games and only played two snaps on Sunday against the Saints. James is similar to Hunter in terms of speed and versatility and also could be getting a look. Special teams contributor Anthony Dixon could also be spending time as an RB.