Drew Brees has been a terrific quarterback for a long time in the NFL, and he still ranks as one of the league’s best even at age 40.
Though he missed several games earlier this season, Brees has won three of his four starts since regaining his health, including his past three against the Falcons, Panthers and Bucs as he leads the 10-2 Saints against the visiting, 10-2 49ers Sunday.
Now in his 19th NFL season, Brees is completing 73.8 percent of his passes, has 12 touchdown passes vs. four interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 104.4. He’s also got a dangerous group of receivers.
So, if the 49ers want to slow down a Saints offense that averages more than 361 yards and 24 points per game, San Francisco likely will need to put pressure on Brees, who has been sacked just nine times in seven games. Overall, the Saints offensive line has given up just 21 sacks, fifth fewest in the NFL.
That’s where Dee Ford could be a big plus.
The defensive end missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but is back on the practice field this week and is likely to return to play Sunday against the Saints. Ford has six and a half sacks, six quarterback hits, six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles this year for a defense that ranks No. 2 in the NFL in sacks, with 45.
Ford’s return, opposite rookie Nick Bosa, should put more pressure on the Saints offensive line. Bosa has eight sacks this season, but collected just one over the past two games without Ford on the other side of the line.
"It feels good," Ford said of his inury this week, in speaking with Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee. "The hardest thing about coming back from the hamstring is you just got to trust it. It’s sort of still in the healing process, kind of early. I’m a fast healer, so I have to be careful. It’s just certain movements. You just have to be confident with it. And I feel really good at practice and I feel really good going into the game."
The Saints are 2½-point favorites for the matchup in New Orleans, which is set to kick off at 10 a.m.