The 49ers haven't seen a wide receiver like Michael Thomas in 2019.
The New Orleans Saints star leads the NFL in receptions (110) and receiving yards (1,290), ranking fifth in the league in yards per touch (11.5). Catching passes from an all-time great in Drew Brees and playing half of your games in the comfort of the Superdome helps, but Thomas' prolificacy is stark when contrasted with the 49ers' wide-receiving corps, as Pro Football Focus' Jeff Denney noted Monday.
A full season with Emmanuel Sanders in the fold surely would've made the aforementioned gap bigger. Plus, the 49ers rely on a tight end for much of their receiving production. George Kittle leads the team in targets (67), receptions (54) and receiving yards (687), ranking no worse than eighth among NFL tight ends in those categories.
Still, Thomas is something else. Kittle and 49ers rookie receiver Deebo Samuel have combined for 1,251 receiving yards, or 39 fewer than Thomas has on his own. Brees and Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater remarkably have thrown to Thomas on over 30 percent of their throws this season, whereas 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has targeted one of Kittle and Samuel just over 35 percent of the time this season.
Thomas is coming off his worst performance of the season, as he caught six passes for 48 yards on short rest in the Saints' Thanksgiving win over the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers would be wise to take a page out of the Falcons' playbook, but that is easier said than done, considering Thomas has at least 89 receiving yards in all but two of his games this season and has caught at least two-thirds of his targets in each game.
Brees will throw to Thomas early and often Sunday. How often will go a long way towards determining if the 49ers can avoid their first losing streak of the season.