Fred Warner took advantage of a well-timed blitz from safety Talanoa Hufanga for his patented peanut punch to force a fumble against Alvin Kamara on the fourth play of the game. Then, the 49ers picked up where they left off against the Cardinals by forcing a turnover. That gave the offense a short field, as they took over from the Saints 43-yard line.
Kyle Shanahan wasted no time getting Deebo Samuel, who was questionable with a hamstring injury, involved as he caught a pass on 3rd & 6, and that went for 20 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo found Ray-Ray McCloud on 3rd & 13 for a 12-yard gain. That set up a 1-yard gain for Christian McCaffrey, who picked up the first down.
Unfortunately, Garoppolo and Kittle couldn’t get on the same page on third down, which led to a Robbie Gould field goal to give the Niners a 3-0 lead.
The defense dominated the Saints in the first half. New Orleans had 19 plays before the two-minute warning and has only picked up three first downs. The defense forced back-to-back three and outs. Mixed in, there was a great challenge by Shanahan that negated a 30-yard reception from Chris Olave.
That would’ve given the Saints the ball inside of the red zone and a chance to tie. Instead, New Orleans had to punt.
The 49ers had a drive over six minutes and 11 plays but ended up getting stopped on fourth down. You know things are going well when you have an 11-play drive and only have one first down. Still, the fourth down call was puzzling.
Some will complain about the team being in shotgun, but I think Shanahan didn’t like his odds after New Orleans got a push-up front. So, he passed it. Or attempted to, at least. Garoppolo couldn’t find an open receiver and tried to put his head down and score but to no avail.
Shanahan deserves credit for going for it. I think that it was a play you give credit to the defense for making. The defense gave up nothing, which meant a punt and a short field for the offense.
Thankfully, the connection to Jauan Jennings was strong before the first half. Jimmy’s throw was tipped, but it landed in the lap of Jennings to give the Niners a 13-0 lead.
The 49ers ran 42 plays in the first half and only had nine third downs. They went 4-9 on third downs. Jimmy has 20 completions to eight different receivers. His 28 attempts in the first half were the third most by a 49er quarterback since 1991.
Outside of that 32-yard run from Mitchell, they’re getting next to nothing on the ground. Jimmy figured to throw the ball over 50 times. With that comes the possibility of a turnover.
Garoppolo had an interception negated thanks to an illegal contact penalty. He came close on a few other throws. It felt like he was constantly flirting with the idea of an interception.
San Francisco had to settle for a field goal on their opening drive of the second half. You had the illegal contact, then a holding call on Jake Brendel, followed by an illegal shift on Kyle Juszczyk. That got the offense behind the chains and Garoppolo was unable to hook up with Aiyuk on 3rd & 11. A field goal by Gould made it 13-0.
The Saints came alive on their next drive as They picked up multiple first downs and were knocking on the door of the 49ers' red zone for the first time all game. After an incomplete pass on third down, Saints right tackle Ryan Ramczyk had a false start, making head coach Dennis Allen go for it. The field goal was no good, and the 49ers preserved their shutout.
The offense ran into the injury bug as Elijah Mitchell was ruled out with a knee injury and right guard Spencer Burford was questionable to return with an ankle injury. Christian McCaffrey looked as though something was bothering him on the sideline, but he returned. That meant Jordan Mason and Daniel Brunskill would fill in during the fourth quarter.
The Saints reached the 49ers red zone on the next drive. They converted a third and fourth down thanks to a boneheaded penalty by Nick Bosa. But Talanoa Hufanga forced a fumble on the one-yard line to preserve the shutout.
New Orleans had five possessions inside of the 49ers' 43-yard line through the six-minute mark. Thanks to a Bosa sack, his 11.5 of the season, the Saints failed to score again. It was an outstanding performance defensively with their backs against the wall.
The 49ers' defense has yet to surrender a second-half point in four games. This is their second shutout of the season, and they’ve yet to allow a point in the second half this month.
It seemed as though Shanahan was content with getting out of this game and onto Miami. Before the four-minute drive, the offense had 11 yards in the second half and hadn’t picked up a first down. How much of that was due to injuries and a double-digit lead is up for discussion.
Jordan Mason closed the game out with a pair of first downs. He finished with 25 yards on five carries. The Niners might need to rely on Mason moving forward with Mitchell banged up. Garoppolo escaped without an interception, and the 49ers' defense did the rest.
13-0, good guys.