How 49ers' Win in New Orleans Solidifies Them as NFC's Top Team

Thomas GaliciaFeatured Columnist IVNovember 25, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 25:  Mario Manningham #82 of the San Francisco 49ers runs for yards against the New Orleans Saints during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 25, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

How could the San Francisco 49ers follow up a blowout victory where they proved they had the best defense in the NFL on Monday Night Football?

By doing something that could be seen as the more difficult task: defeating the New Orleans Saints in front of a raucous Superdome crowd on only six days rest after traveling across the country.

Add to that the possibility of a quarterback controversy (I've noticed the 49ers seem to flourish in those situations; see Montana-Young), and what the 49ers have done in the span of six days is nothing short of astounding.

They've proved themselves as the best team in the NFC and have shown everyone that they can win anywhere at any time.

The 49ers are doing it the way we all expected them to: defense. San Francisco's defense was ranked second in the league going into Week 12, but the one thing they've seemed to lack is the flashy ability to cause turnovers (the 49ers only had eight interceptions and seven turnovers prior to their game against the Saints) that the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans have had (a stat so misguided that many still believe those defenses are better than the 49ers).

That would end on Sunday, as the 49ers were able to force turnovers to shift the momentum of the game.

The first one came in the second quarter with the 49ers down 14-7; it followed a Colin Kaepernick interception that gave New Orleans great field position. After a pass from Drew Brees to Devery Henderson was ruled incomplete due to Henderson not being able to keep both feet inbounds, Ahmad Brooks stepped in front of a Brees pass, intercepting and returning it for the game-tying touchdown.

The 49ers wouldn't trail after that play and would use a third-quarter pick-six to put the game away. This time it came from Donte Whitner and went for 42 yards.

But now San Francisco is at the point where its defense isn't doing all of the work, thanks in part to the play of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick did have an interception against New Orleans and was much more reserved against the Saints than what was seen against the Bears only six days prior, but he still gave San Francisco enough of a threat that the Saints defense was on its heels wondering what he would do.

This would lead to confusion at times from the Saints defense, especially on a third-quarter touchdown pass to running back Frank Gore, another key cog in San Francisco's offense.

Setting up that third-quarter touchdown? This first-quarter touchdown run from Kaepernick. It's tough to defend against a playmaker like this, something that the 49ers have lacked in previous seasons.

Put all of this together, along with the home-field advantage the 49ers enjoy at Candlestick Park (a tough place to play, especially in the postseason), and you have the best team in the NFC.

Their Week 12 contest against the Saints only further emphasized why San Francisco deserves that title as the best.