Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday’s Saints-49ers playoff game:
The great outdoors: There has been a lot of talk about how New Orleans’ offense is built for a dome and doesn’t play as well outdoors. But some numbers dispute that. According to ESPN Stats & Information, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees completed 61.9 percent of his throws of 21 yards or more down field during the regular season when playing outdoors. In indoor games, Brees completed only 50 percent of his passes of 21 yards or more.
Tipping their hand: The New Orleans offense can do damage with just about any of its skill-position players. But, in one way, the Saints are predictable. Although the Saints use running backs Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory in a rotation, their roles are pretty well defined. When Sproles is on the field, the Saints have passed on 70.3 percent of their offensive plays. When Thomas has been in the game, the Saints have thrown 68.9 percent of the time. When Ivory has been on the field, the Saints have run 73.4 percent of the time.
Easy on the blitz: New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams always has been a very aggressive coach. The Saints blitz more often than any team in the NFL. Including the playoff victory against Detroit, the Saints have sent five or more pass-rushers on 51.3 percent of opponent’s dropbacks this season. That’s the highest percentage in the league. Williams’ goal is to force opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes. But Williams may want to re-think his philosophy when facing San Francisco’s Alex Smith, who has excelled when facing the blitz this season. When facing five or more pass-rushers, Smith threw 10 touchdowns and just one interception.