The perception of style suggests a stark contrast, pitting the coolly efficient, smooth-operating machine versus the blunt-force object that smashes machines until they bear little resemblance to what they were.
New Orleans Saints offensive players know all too well what the perception means: That San Francisco's physical defense, ranked sixth in the league in yards allowed per game (316.8) and fourth in points per game (17.2), will discombobulate to the Saints' finesse offense, which checks in at No. 2 in yards per game (422.7) and in scoring (29.4).
The Saints (7-2) will face San Francisco (6-3) on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, for a scheduled 3:25 p.m. kickoff.
Partly, that aforementioned belief stems from the last two meetings between the teams, both won by San Francisco during the 2012 calendar year.
The first, an NFC divisional playoff game Jan. 14, 2012, at Candlestick Park, actually was a shootout. The 49ers claimed a 36-32 victory on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to tight end Vernon Davis with nine seconds remaining, vaulting the Niners into the NFC championship game.
The teams combined for 889 yards of offense (474 by the Saints) and four touchdowns each.
The second, on Nov. 25 last year, was a 31-21 San Francisco victory that was more along the lines of a slugfest. The Niners' defense produced a pair of interception returns for touchdowns, held the Saints to 290 yards and made stand their 375 yards of offense.
"They kind of out-physicaled us," Saints receiver Lance Moore said.
And that's a scenario the Saints don't want to see repeated Sunday, in a venue where they're 5-0 this season, winning by an average score of 35-15.
"It's like you're imposing your will on the opponent," Moore said. "If they come in and their style is to be physical and play smash-mouth football, and we end up doing that to them, that would do wonders to our confidence and definitely hurt their confidence.
"Not to say that we're going to come in and try to play smash-mouth football, but (we'll) try to be as balanced as possible and stick with the running game and hopefully, we continue running the ball the way we did last week."
Last Sunday the Saints rushed for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries in a 49-17 home victory over Dallas. The rushing total was the team's most since 2000, and its most ever under Coach Sean Payton.
And it was an example of the Saints' willingness to stay with the run game (Payton stressed the team would seek balance after rushing 13 times and dropping back to pass 55 times the week before, against the Jets), and their ability to exhibit the required physicality for the job.
"Certainly the element of physicality (factors in) when you think about the run game just because, (you have to) make them tackle (you)," quarterback Drew Brees said. "I think the passing game gets the perception of being this finesse-style offense.
"If you're executing it efficiently, not turning the ball over and you're scoring 40 points per game, call it whatever you want. It's getting the job done, you know?
"I think just the philosophy is you've got to run the ball in this league to win, period. Nobody is able to go out there and throw it 50 times a game and win. You have to have a combination of – and it might be something where it's not something that happens early – but you wear a team down with it and it's something that wins in the fourth quarter, or maybe it's something you start with until you build a lead.
"There's a lot of ways to execute it, but at the end of the day you've got to be able to run and you've got to be able to play good defense to win in this league."
Both require a certain amount of blunt force.
"We've got to come out and make sure that we're just as physical," Moore said.
To counter perception, and to get another win.