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On the Phone with Vitt and Harper

Posted by Alex Espinoza on November 21, 2012 – 7:18 PM

Unfortunately for him, Roman Harper had the best view of “Vernon Post” last year when the 49ers and Saints met in the NFC Divisional Round. Vernon Davis cut just in front of the New Orleans safety before making the historic touchdown catch, which gave San Francisco a 36-32 win an propelled it to the NFC Championship game.

But as the two teams prepare for a rematch in the Bayou on Sunday, Harper doesn’t see many parallels between the two games.

“You got to give them all the credit for the game that they won last year, but now it’s a totally different year,” Harper said on a conference call Wednesday. “It’s going to be at home for us and we’re looking forward to that. We’ve got to be able to try to match up physically and I know they’re going to come here and try to run the ball.”

Despite an 0-4 start to the season, New Orleans has gone 5-1 in its past six games under interim coach Joe Vitt, who commended his players for their poise and ability to execute this year. But Vitt knows the Saints have their work cut out for them if they want to move their record to 6-5 on Sunday.

“We’ve got ourselves back to .500,” Vitt said, “But listen, we’re looking down the barrel of a shotgun right now, man. We’ve got to have the best performance that we’ve had all year long just for a chance to compete.”

In regards to the 49ers, the question on the minds of most football fans is whether or not Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick will get the start. Kaepernick captivated America with his stellar performance in the 32-7 win over the Bears on “Monday Night Football,” while the Saints know what Smith is capable of doing, as evidenced by last year’s playoff victory.

Either way, Harper and the New Orleans defense has a tall task lined up for Sunday.

“They’re both right-handed, they’ve both got a very nice, strong arm,” Harper said of the 49ers quarterbacks. “Alex maybe knows the offense more because he’s been in it longer, but both of these guys have had success the last few weeks running this offense so you don’t really prepare differently for either one. You know both of them are very formidable quarterbacks and both of them have done a great job of running this offense.”

As a defensive coach, Vitt has also appreciated the job done by 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in 2012 and over the years. Entering Sunday, San Francisco ranks first in scoring defense (13.4 points per game) and second in total defense (277.2 yards allowed per game).

“He’s always put up strong numbers, no matter where he’s been, no matter where he’s coordinated,” Vitt said. “What Vic has always done is, his team is going to play fundamentally sound, they’re going to play hard, they’re always going to tackle and they’re going to play physical. That’s the brand of a Vic Fangio football team.”

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