The New Orleans Saints are in a difficult position right now, sitting at 4-7 and having a somewhat tough remaining schedule, which continues this week against the 6-4 San Francisco 49ers. With the trenches being so important for this matchup, today we will look at how the Saints’ rushing offense stacks up against the 49ers’ rushing defense. This will detail how these two units have performed so far this season against their opponents, and then how we expect them to match up against each other this Sunday afternoon. So, without further ado, let’s get right into the first portion.
How have these units performed this season?
So far this season, the Saints’ rushing offense started off very strong but has started to quiet down in recent weeks and while still efficient, has not received the same amount of touches it did early on. The Saints had 24 rushing attempts last week across 4 players, 13 of which going to running backs and the other 9 to quarterbacks/Taysom Hill. They currently rank 12th in rushing yards (1,295), T-11th in yards per carry (4.7), T-13th least rushing touchdowns (9), 15th in rushing first downs (69), 14th lowest rushing first down success rate (24.8%) and are tied for the 8th most rushing fumbles (5). Overall, an about league average unit or just above, but the last few weeks have been harsh in the run game.
On the other side, you have an elite run-stopping defense for the 49ers, that rank 1st in various categories and top 10 in most of them. They have allowed the least rushing yards (811), the lowest YPC (3.4), T-11th least rushing touchdowns (9), the lowest number of rushing first downs (47), and the lowest rushing first down success rate allowed (19.5%). They have also seen the 4th lowest number of rush attempts in the season (241). All things considered, they have been exceptionally efficient at stopping the run game and have truly been an all-around elite unit in the front 7.
What to expect from these units matching up
To put things simply and blatantly, the 49ers have one of the best, if not the best rush defense this season, and have stopped various premier backs from having big games this year (Austin Ekeler, Christian McCaffrey, Javonte Williams, etc.). While they have seen their fair share of struggling run games as well, they have done extremely well all season at stopping the run game and holding opponents to low scores (aside from their game against the Kansas City Chiefs).
With the Saints’ run game currently being utilized at a very minimal level the last 3 games or so, this is probably not the game to re-introduce 20-30 rushing attempts a game for the running backs. Considering how good the 49ers have been, the Saints could be trailing for a portion of this game and will likely be passing the ball more than anything on Sunday, but if they could get the run game going early, they could potentially rip off a few big gains before the front 7 can lock down. All-in-all, the 49ers definitely have the advantage in this matchup of units though.