Robert Saleh

Saints' Sean Payton snaps over failed two-point conversion vs. 49ers

Saints' Sean Payton snaps over failed two-point conversion vs. 49ers

Saints coach Sean Payton wasn't in a mood to be second-guessed following his team's last-minute Week 14 loss to the 49ers.

San Francisco ultimately won the thrilling back-and-forth matchup by two measly points -- a game in which New Orleans attempted two two-point conversions.

Both failed.

After Tre'Quan Smith scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass to give New Orleans a 46-45 lead with 53 seconds remaining, quarterback Drew Brees went back to the same well for the two-point conversion attempt, but the pass intended fell incomplete. On the ensuing possession, 49ers tight end George Kittle caught a 39-yard reception on fourth-and-2, eventually setting up a game-winning Robbie Gould 30-yard field goal as time expired.

But after the tough loss, it was the former two-point try, not the latter, that Payton was questioned about -- while shopping for groceries, no less.

"I certainly understand the fans asking questions," Payton said Thursday on his weekly WWL Radio show. "I got the guy at frickin' Whole Foods asking me about the two-point play. I looked at him, the guy in the meat section, and I said, 'Hey, your steaks don't look too good right now. Worry about your frickin' meat.' "

Oh man. What's the over/under on how many "Worry about your frickin' meat" shirts will be at the Superdome when the Saints host the Colts on Monday night?

The play in question occurred midway through the first quarter, after Saints tight end Jared Cook hauled in his second touchdown reception of the contest. The 49ers were assessed a personal foul on the play, and rather than take the yardage on the kickoff, Payton couldn't pass up being so close to the goal line.

On the two-point try, Brees handed the ball off to a motioning Taysom Hill, who promptly was stuffed by multiple San Francisco defenders well short of the end zone. 

"I didn't feel like kicking a touchback, thought about kicking an onside kick," Payton explained. "So on the 1-yard line, I think we're gonna get two points. And then we get the defense misaligned -- obviously it doesn't have any success. And then the game ends, and, 'Why were you going for two?' Because I wanted to. We were on the 1-yard line."

Misaligned, huh? Payton was correct in stating that the 49ers were in an atypical alignment with two safeties on the same side of the field, but according to San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, that was intentional.

"We knew it was coming," Saleh said Thursday in response to Payton's claim that one of the safeties accidentally lined up on the wrong side. "I’m not going to say he wasn’t on the right side because of the way we execute certain things and all our different goal-line packages that we have, but that play was a gimme one to me with Taysom Hill where he was aligned. That was a layup in my opinion."

[RELATED: 49ers severely battered, bruised with three regular-season games to go]

The tape sure seems to suggest the 49ers knew what was coming:

The Saints hung 46 points on the 49ers, so clearly, not many of Payton's play-calls were of the layup variety. But the first two-point attempt?

You might say he butchered that one.

Panthers firing Ron Rivera could make opening for 49ers' Robert Saleh

Panthers firing Ron Rivera could make opening for 49ers' Robert Saleh

The Carolina Panthers fired coach Ron Rivera on Tuesday in a move that could have implications for the 49ers this offseason. 

San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has been rumored to be a head-coaching candidate ahead of the 2020 season, with Niners cornerback Richard Sherman and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll endorsing Saleh. Saleh has overseen the 49ers' year-over-year turnaround on defense, using offseason acquisitions Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and injured linebacker Kwon Alexander to full effect.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have allowed the 11th-most total yards -- and the fourth-most on the ground -- this season. Thirty-eight percent of opponents' drives also have ended in a touchdown, the 11th-highest mark in the league. 

Still, the Panthers might focus on the other side of the ball. Rivera himself was a former defensive coordinator, and Panthers owner David Tepper indicated Tuesday that his preference would be to hire a head coach with an offensive background.  

"This is a modern NFL,'' Tepper said in a press conference Tuesday (via ESPN). "There is a preference for offensive coordinators. That does not mean if you find somebody fantastic on the defensive side I won't consider it. The NFL has made rules to lean to the offense. That's why you have more people going that way.''

If Saleh were "fantastic" enough in Tepper's eyes, the 49ers would then have an opening on their staff. Rivera's background could make him a fit. The 57-year-old attended Seaside High School in Monterrey County and then played four years at Cal.

[RELATED: 49ers' Kittle says teammate Warner is favorite teammate ever]

The Panthers struggled with Rivera calling plays this season, and how well his scheme would translate to the 49ers' defensive personnel remains to be seen. Still, his extensive experience and personal ties to the Bay Area seemingly would make him a candidate. 

Saleh, however, first would have to land the head-coaching job that many see as an inevitability. 

49ers-Ravens odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 13 game

49ers-Ravens odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 13 game

There aren’t many times where an NFL team faces Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and then takes on a better signal-caller the following week.

But defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and the 49ers (10-1) might be facing that this weekend as they visit the dynamic, Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens (9-2).

All the former Heisman Trophy winner has done this season is lead the NFL with 24 touchdown passes and register the highest rushing yards per attempt (7.1) in the league.

However, Week 13 might just be the classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, as the 49ers defense has allowed the fewest yards of any NFL team in 2019.

Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, and the rest of San Francisco’s defense must play their best game to slow down Baltimore’s potent attack.

[RELATED: Tartt among five 49ers players to watch Sunday vs. Ravens]

Here's how Las Vegas and experts around the country see the game playing out:

Line  

Caesars: Ravens -5.5 (-110)
Consensus: Ravens -5.5 (-110)
Westgate: Ravens -5.5 (-110)
Wynn: Ravens -5.5 (-110)

Predictions

Jamison Hensley, ESPN: Ravens 33, 49ers 20
Nick Wagoner, ESPN: Ravens 23, 49ers 20
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Ravens 23, 49ers 21
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Ravens 24, 49ers 20
Alex Kay, Forbes: Ravens 31, 49ers 23