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View from the trenches: how 49ers can beat Saints

  • San Francisco lineman Ricky Jean Francois puts pressure on Cleveland's Colt McCoy in a 2010 game. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat, 2010)

SANTA CLARA — To continue its playoff coverage, The Press Democrat sat down with a member of the current 49ers organization to break down the upcoming matchup with the New Orleans Saints.

Which member of the organization, you ask? The most observant, the most well-spoken Niner there is.

It's not a coach, though. Jim Harbaugh and his guys aren't exactly eager to talk strategy and matchups with the media.

No, it's backup defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois — the man with the largest, most interesting perspective on the team.

He's patient and thoughtful like an offensive lineman, and he was eager to answer questions about Saturday's key matchups.

Here's what he said.

And for your enjoyment, keep in mind while you read that Jean Francois sounds like a southern James Earl Jones.

What can you guys do to slow down Drew Brees?

Drew Brees had a tremendous season, so I've got to say congratulations on that one. But to slow him down you've got to get him off his mark. I've seen him on film — once he drops back on that third step, that ball's getting out of his hand. He's got (Darren) Sproles in his backfield and he knows how to use him. He's basically a master of his own offense.

Will the fact that you've faced Kendall Hunter in practice all year help the defense prepare for Sproles?

Yeah. It's kind of hard to see him, so it's going to be the same thing — it's hard to see Sproles. You're about to see the same type of back — hides out everywhere, swings out of the backfield, use him as a receiver. Yeah, Kendall will be a good look to use this week (in practice).

How much of a matchup problem are Sproles and Jimmy Graham specifically for your defense?

Graham — he's probably both the best tight end and the best receiver we're going to play this season, and Sproles, I can say (Rashard) Mendenhall is probably one of the closest dudes to him that we've played, but Sproles might be a little faster.

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