NEW ORLEANS — Malcolm Jenkins spent a good chunk of his offseason in front of a television, reviewing New Orleans’ crushing loss to San Francisco in last season’s playoffs.
The 36-32 thriller was a defeat he would never get over or be able to forget, so he figured he might as well learn from it.
“I probably watched that game about four or five times, the entire game,” the Saints safety said this week. “I just marked down the type of things I needed to improve on or us as a defense needed to improve on so that we don’t make those mistakes again in the same situation.”
Less than a year later, a high-stakes rematch is set when the NFC West-leading 49ers (7-2-1) visit the resurgent Saints (5-5), who are trying to prolong a captivating rally back into playoff contention after an 0-4 start.
“Everybody probably circled this game whenever they announced the schedule,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be a big game for us. It’s going to be a lot of emotion, but right now all we can do is make sure that we prepare mentally and not get too caught up in the hype.”
There is plenty of intrigue, including a potential quarterback quandary for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh following the impressive first career start of Colin Kaepernick in the Niners’ 32-7 demolition of the Chicago Bears last Monday night.
With established starter Alex Smith still recovering from a concussion, Kaepernick demonstrated he could make all the throws needed to pick apart a respected Bears defense.
“In both guys we have quarterbacks that we’re confident in, believe in, have won for us,” Harbaugh said. “We have confidence in our guys. It’s great for us that we’re in that position.”
Smith had little doubt there would be an extra edge to this season’s meeting with the Saints.
“They’re on a roll. They get a little chance at revenge,” Smith said. “Everybody that watched that (playoff) game remembers it. And certainly us that took part in it — I know that. It was a physical game. It was back and forth, some talking going on out there on the field. I’m sure it’s in the back of their heads. I’m sure they remember it and the chance to get us on their turf.”