Posted January 12, 2012 on AP on Fox
C5
Center Jonathan Goodwin has been going around San Francisco's locker room offering bits of veteran insight here and there. Playoff knowledge, Saints knowledge. The NFC West champion 49ers have eight players who have been to the postseason previously. The New Orleans Saints? A whopping 39 before their victory over Detroit last weekend. ''I think some of the guys who didn't get a chance to go to the playoffs in the past, they're hungry,'' 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. ''They're really hungry. I don't know what it's going to be like, I just know I'm playing in the playoffs. I try not to get too excited because I want to keep myself under control.'' That's where Goodwin comes in. Among the key offseason acquisitions for San Francisco, Goodwin is one of those playoff-tested guys for the Niners (13-3). He won a Super Bowl ring with the Saints two years ago. ''Should be pretty fun,'' Goodwin said. ''Hopefully my experiences seeing that defense a lot during training camp and sometimes during the season will be valuable.'' When the 49ers head into their first postseason appearance in nine years Saturday afternoon against Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints (14-3), quarterback and 2005 No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith will be just one of many San Francisco regulars making postseason debuts and taking their most significant steps yet onto the NFL's big stage. Of the eight 49ers who have been to the postseason before, one is little-used wide receiver Brett Swain, another is long snapper Brian Jennings and also record-setting kicker David Akers. Jennings is the only player still around from the 49ers' 2002 playoff season, when San Francisco rallied to stun the New York Giants 39-38 in their NFC wild-card game. From star linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, to Davis, running back Frank Gore and left tackle Joe Staley, punter Andy Lee and even safety Donte Whitner, this will be a monumental first. What a difference from the dominating Saints, with almost an entire roster of men who have played such important games before this year. The 49ers are considered an underdog again - a role first-year coach Jim Harbaugh relishes - this week despite playing at home in sold-out Candlestick Park. San Francisco earned the NFC's No. 2 seed over the Saints, who did their share of scoreboard watching late in the season in hopes of stealing the second spot and a first-round bye. ''The bigger the games get, I think you fall back on your routine and your preparation,'' Smith said. ''What you've always done, the things that got you here. Continue to fall back on all those little things.'' Brees will be up against a stingy San Francisco defense that allowed only three rushing touchdowns and all in the final two games - and the Niners had 38 takeaways to only 10 turnovers for a plus-28 turnover differential. That matched the second-best mark in NFL history. Now, back in the postseason, the 49ers face the daunting task of trying to slow down Brees, whose versatile offense produced a playoff-record 626 yards in Saturday night's 45-28 win over the Lions. Brees threw for 466 yards and completed 33 of 43 passes - and no doubt will provide the toughest test yet for San Francisco's deep and talented defense. Darren Sproles ran for two touchdowns against Detroit and Pierre Thomas also rushed for a score. The 49ers realize the challenge - and plan to stick with what got them this far. They have lost the last six meetings with New Orleans. ''I haven't been to the postseason in my life,'' safety Dashon Goldson said. ''I won a championship in high school. But other than that, no. ... We've got a good chance.'' Brees knows playoff experience won't mean much. New Orleans was set to arrive in San Francisco on Thursday evening, then hold a walk-through practice at Candlestick on Friday. ''I think that can be beneficial at times, your guys are used to playing in big games, they're used to being in playoff situations, that kind of thing,'' Brees said. ''But to be honest with you each team is different. I would say San Francisco is a 13-win team just like we're a 13-win team and we've all played in a lot of big games this year and we've all had to win down the stretch.'' The 49ers, who won their division to end an eight-year playoff drought, have been planning for New Orleans for a week now. San Francisco took a 24-3 beating in the Big Easy back in August during the teams' exhibition opener. ''My advice so far is pretty much, when it all comes down to it, it's still football,'' Goodwin said. ''You might have a little anxiety that first series. After that, it's something that you've done for plenty of years of your life.'' Akers, the oldest player on the team at 37 and in his 14th year, has the most playoff experience of the bunch after spending his last 12 NFL seasons with the Eagles. Smith, not about to reflect on his comeback year, and the rest of the first-timers are looking to make their own memorable mark on these playoffs. ''Had a great season up to this point. Got ourselves the bye,'' Smith said. ''Put ourselves in a good situation. It doesn't guarantee you anything beyond that, we all understand that. So much of the playoffs is the hot team and the team that's peaking and continuing to get better here at the end of the season. That's really our focus, is just to continue to get better.'' Saints coach Sean Payton isn't counting on an advantage based on past postseason success - like that title two years ago. ''Our game, it's three hours long, so it's going to be 12 to 14 series each, it's going to be some plays in the kicking game,'' Payton said. ''Last week the same question was asked before we played Detroit. We've got a number of guys who are playing without it. I don't think it hurts, but it certainly doesn't entitle you or guarantee anything.'' ---- AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this story.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

2012 NFL Playoff Predictions: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers

The 2012 NFL Playoffs have already been chock-full of surprises and the Divisional Round should feature much more of the same.  It all kicks into swing with Drew Brees and the high-flying New Orleans Saints (14-3)—fresh off scoring their third consecutive forty-five burger at the rejuvenated San Francisco 49ers (13-3) on Saturday at 4:30pm EST on FOX. Currently as explosive as...

NFL Playoff Predictions: San Francisco 49ers Will Be Embarrassed by Saints

Wed, 11 Jan 2012 10:25:49 CST

Why the 49ers Can’t Win on Saturday

Thu, 12 Jan 2012 16:17:58 CST

49ers must avoid giving Saints extra possessions

Two of Jim Harbaugh's messages to his heavily neophyte playoff team were revealed this week, and they seem, at least superficially, to conflict with each other. No. 1, as originally described by 49ers receiver Michael...

Saints will be hard-pressed to top perfect opener

Frank Lloyd Wright has nothing on Sean Payton. QuantCoach Kevin Braig looks back to the Saints’ win over Detroit (and the great games of the past) with awe and a tip of the cap.....

NFL Divisional Playoff Round Free Picks From The Guru

Last Week 3-0 (+9 Units)Season 42-37-4 (+ 11.5 Units)Last Season 53-47-2 (+21.5 Units)New Orleans (-4) at San FranNew Orleans finished the season 13-3, averaged almost 40 points per game at home, Drew Brees set the record for most yards in a season and they destroyed a good Detroit team last week. Thing is, they have to play the Niners in San Fran. Not the same as the Superdome....

Peter King: Brees not the only player 49ers must contain

Drew Brees knows how to manipulate a defense. Containing him isn't the only thing the fast 49ers defense has to be concerned about, writes Peter King in his divisional-round preview.

The bane of the Saints

Not much is wrong with the New Orleans Saints offense, but there is a weakness on defense that has coordinator Gregg Williams cringing (the Vikings can empathize).
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.