|San Francisco's offense was aggressive and impressive in the first half. (AP)
The 49ers had to get physical with the Saints to compete against New Orleans high-octane offense and they did just that early in the game Saturday, forcing three early turnovers to jump out to a 17-0 lead. But Drew Brees is kind of good and led two masterful second-quarter scoring drives to cut the lead to 17-14 at halftime in San Francisco.
It's a testament to just how explosive the Saints offense is that they're in the game; a pair of fumbles (one in the 49ers red zone, the other in the Saints red zone) and a pair of Brees picks in the first half should be nearly impossible to overcome.
Speaking of testaments, it's a testament to Alex Smith's career that his first career game with two touchdowns in the first quarter came on Saturday against the Saints. But we shouldn't knock Smith, considering how good he looked in the first half, 12 of 20 for 130 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.
It was the 49ers defense that deserves the most props for the first 30 minutes though. They were absolutely physical, hawked the mess out of the ball, flustered the Saints skill position guys and swarmed to the ballcarrier on plays that typically work well for the Saints, like screens to Darren Sproles.
Donte Whitner, in particular, was absolutely terrifying, forcing a fumble by Pierre Thomas (and knocking him out of the game) and generally wrecking shop/laying wood all over the field with big hits.
Whitner also provided a pretty good summary of the first half, in GIF form:
|Whitner's absolutely laying wood against the Saints. (Mocksession.com)|
With the 49ers holding just a three-point lead, it's anyone's game, obviously. And we'd be remiss to forget the second-half performance by the Saints last week at home against Detroit when assuming this will remain close.
But with the way the 49ers defense is playing, it would be shocking if the first Divisional Round game of the weekend didn't come down to the wire.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.