It was back to work for the New Orleans Saints as they prepare to what basically amounts to the start of a 6-game playoff stretch. The half dozen games remaining are all against NFC opponents and five of the six teams have a 5-5 record or better and are in the playoff race.
Sunday the Saints face the 49ers fresh off of a 32-7 beat down of the Bears in San Francisco and are 7-2 on the season sitting atop of the NFC West division. It was clear the Saints are fully away of what is coming to town this weekend. “Since (Jim) Harbaugh has been there, they’ve got a phenomenal record,” Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt began. “Number one, they’ve got the best road record in the National Football League since he’s been there. Since he has been there, they are plus over-thirty in the turnover/takeaway ratio.”
The 49ers defense is one again strong this season ranked 2nd in the NFL against the pass and 6th against the run. “They’re the same defense as a year ago,” Vitt states. “They are stout, they are effective, and they’re outstanding versus the run. They do force takeaways.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was sacked four times in the playoff loss last season and recorded 11 quarterback hits. “You just can’t have any wasted movements or any wasted time. You know that those guys are bearing down on you,” Bress says of the pass rush he knows is coming Sunday, led by second year player Aldon Smith who has 15 sacks this season after having 14 all of last season. “You always just have to be conscious that you can’t just be sitting back there holding that ball. You have to know where your outlets are and find places to get it out. I know the o-line appreciates that.”
Sunday at Oakland right tackle Charles Brown with an MCL injury to his right knee. A huge injury because he was in for starter Zach Strief who injured his groin, leaving undrafted rookie free agent Bryce Harris to get his first start against San Francisco.
Brown missed practice while Strief however worked on a limited basis. “It’s a core injury. A core muscle injury not exactly a sports hernia,” Strief told reports following practice. No doubt the Saints, more specifically Drew Brees, would love to have Strief back in the line-up. At the midpoint of the week it’s simply too early to tell. “We’re going to have to see tomorrow and see how I feel. I felt good today at the same time you got to wait and see to how things respond. Missing time with any type of injury there is a little bit of ‘how does your body react to being back in action’ I feel good and we’ll see where I’m at tomorrow.”
Brown was joined by three other Saints in not practicing. They were defensive end Junior Galette (ankle), cornerback Corey White (knee) and cornerback Elbert Mack (concussion).
Running back Darren Sproles was full go today as he continues to work back with that broken hand injury. Sproles has already missed three games and worked all of last week but did not play against the Raiders. The team deciding to give it a little more time to heal and not risk further injury.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ Dream Foundation donated one million dollars to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Brees who what instrumental in getting the word out and helping the city recovering following Hurricane Katrina felt it was the right thing to do. “Obviously, we know the type of devastation that a hurricane like that can cause,” Brees said Wednesday to start off his weekly chat with reporters. “Obviously, being here six months after (Hurricane) Katrina and the length of time it’s taken to get things back here and then also to watch (Hurricane) Gustav come through here and (Hurricane) Isaac, we can only imagine the devastation and the way that it’s changed people’s lives up there. I know they have a long road ahead of them. Certainly they can use all the help they can get. It’s something we felt compelled to do as a foundation.”
New Orleans hasn’t been forgotten either as Brees in an interview with CBS’s “Person to Person” said over the next few months they be will donating to a number of New Orleans organizations in the total sum of $2 million.