The five keys

SFI's five keys for the 49ers in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome.

CONTAIN DEUCE MCALLISTER: If the Niners can limit what the Saints' star halfback does, it will have a ripple effect on the entire New Orleans offense and will force the Saints into situations in which they don't do well. McAllister hurt the Niners the last time San Francisco played in New Orleans, and the Niners must stuff him like they did Atlanta's running game last week, and like Seattle did to McAllister last week when it limited him to 57 yards rushing on 16 carries. If McAllister has those kind of numbers Sunday, it should mean a San Francisco victory.

PROTECT KEN DORSEY: This key becomes even more vital after the way Atlanta was able to pressure San Francisco's quarterbacks last week and, ultimately, send both Dorsey and Tim Rattay to the sidelines with shoulder injuries. It won't get any easier for the Niners with Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry out. The Niners have to make sure Dorsey remains upright this week, because Rattay isn't ready to play - even though he'll be Dorsey's backup in this game - and needs at least another week to rest his separated shoulder. If the Niners need to call on Rattay because Dorsey has been hammered again, it will be a sorry situation for the Niners in more ways than one.

ESTABLISH THE RUN: Fred Beasley will be back at fullback this week, so the Niners need to get back to running the ball after struggling in that department in last week's opener, then moving away from it after they fell behind by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter. Seattle fed Shaun Alexander the football last week, and he rushed for 135 of Seattle's 169 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns on the Superdome turf to pace the Seahawks' 21-7 win. With Beasley and Barlow working together for the first time this season, San Francisco must get its ground game going and produce some of the same results that Saints fans watched in horror last week. This also is key to take some pressure off Dorsey in his first NFL start.

BLOCK OUT ROAD CONDITIONS: The Superdome is a tough place for road teams to play, no matter what kind of resistance the Saints are providing on the field, so the Niners must block out the noise and the road distractions and focus on the matter at hand to even their record at 1-1. The 49ers started 0-7 on the road last year, and they need to establish a new approach and trend away from home from the very start this time around.

ATTACK SAINTS IN SECONDARY: The New Orleans secondary can be had. The Niners need to put pressure on cornerbacks Ashley Ambrose and Fred Thomas and safeties Tebucky Jones and Jay Bellamy from the start with quick slants and outs to set up downfield situations later in the game. That could help tight end Eric Johnson find opportunities in the middle to keep the chains moving and keep the San Francisco attack churning through a defense that enters this week ranked 26th in the NFL and 30th in average gain allowed per pass play.

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