Saints take early look at 49ers in Bears game

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) catches a touchdown pass against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) catches a touchdown pass against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

METAIRIE — After a long flight home and a full day of work Monday, Joe Vitt and the rest of the rest of the Saints coaching staff spent the evening viewing the San Francisco-Chicago game.

But they weren’t relaxing together in someone’s house, much less knocking back a few cold ones in a favorite hangout in celebration the 38-17 victory at Oakland the day before. They weren’t even gathered in the communal setting of the team’s Airline Drive headquarters.

Instead, they were individually hunkered down in their offices, trying to pick up whatever they could about the 49ers apart from their usual coaches’ tapes in preparing for their next opponent, Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“It’s not like we’re sitting around with popcorn or anything like that,” Vitt said. “Watching on TV helps because it lets us pick up things like cadence and potentially some checks on defense and things like that.

“It helps because you don’t have audio on coaches tapes.”

Neither were the players planning any watching parties. Center Brian de la Puente said he would be tuning in, but he preferred to unwind alone before the work week resumes Wednesday.

And defensive end Cameron Jordan said he first had to take care of Thanksgiving preparations with his family coming from Arizona, including making sure his bedroom meets his mother’s inspection standards.

But even without the refreshments and camaraderie, film study at any level is a lot more fun when you’re coming off a victory like Sunday’s.

Not only was it the Saints’ fifth in their past six games, getting them to .500 after their 0-4 start, putting them squarely in playoff contention, but it was the first of the five that was decided before the closing minutes.

“We won the turnover/takeaway battle (2-0),” Vitt said. “Offensively we had great balance. Defensively, we’re playing the running game better, we’re tackling better, and we kept the deep ball off us, which the Raiders are known to do. Special teams-wise, we talked all week long about getting our return game going, and we did a great job of scheming that.”

However, even though Vitt appeared about as relaxed as he’s been since coming off his six-game NFL suspension to reclaim his interim coach title five weeks ago, he acknowledged his urge to quickly turn the page toward the NFC West leaders and the team that eliminated the Saints from the playoffs last season.

“It’s important to understand that we can’t look in the rearview mirror,” he said. “We can’t change any of those (early) outcomes. They are what they are.

“Our players are coming in to review film and get a good run, and then will meet Wednesday morning and start our install for San Francisco. We’re going to need a great week of preparation for one of the elite teams in the National Football League.”

That the 49ers are, although they played Monday without starting quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion in last week’s tie with St. Louis.

Second-year man Colin Kapernick started for San Francisco on Monday.

Smith’s status for the Saints is unknown. For that reason, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said the Niners playing on Monday Night Football gave him a valuable leg up.

“Both of those guys are pretty good athletes,” he said. “I have not seen last week’s tape after Alex was hurt and how they functioned after that.

“I guess we’ll see tonight.”

Spagnuolo also became very familiar with the 49ers during his three seasons as coach of the St. Louis Rams, especially last year when San Francisco improved from 6-10 to 13-3 under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I thought they always had really good talent,” Spagnuolo said. “I know Jim is a good football coach. And they went in there and did some good things, so you have to credit him.

“They are smart in what they do on offense, and their defense keeps them in every game. And every time we put them on tape, there are a couple of wrinkles that we have not seen on film. They are that good.”

But, de la Puente said, there’s a lot that’s good these days about the Saints as well, something that seemed unlikely when the team stood 0-4.

“Three was never a doubt in anybody’s mind that it could happen,” he said. “This organization, this coaching staff, this team, we have a winning tradition.

“The foundation was set. Now, we’re back on track and on a winning streak.”

Notes

Vitt did not give an update on the condition of tackle Charles Brown other than he was being evaluated after suffering a knee injury against the Raiders, but added that other tackles would be brought in on Tuesday. That number likely includes undrafted rookie Aderious Simmons, who was waived in the final cut. Rookie Brice Harris replaced Brown on Sunday. Vitt said second-year guard Eric Olson also will get a look at tackle. Starter Zach Strief has been out for the past two games with a groin injury. … Although the Saints lost to the 49ers 36-32 in the divisional round playoffs last year, they have won the won their past six regular season meetings. Before that, though, in 32 seasons playing in the same division, San Francisco 44-23-2 against the Saints, and New Orleans finished ahead of the 49ers in the standings only five times.