The 49ers' defense was excellent on Sunday. You know this already. You’re going to read a lot about it today on this website. One aspect of the game that might not get enough love is something that happened on the offensive side of the ball.
Nick Bosa had just sacked Andy Dalton on fourth down and given the ball back to the 49ers. There were 6:18 seconds left in the ballgame. The last time the defense turned the Saints away from the goal line, the offense went three-and-out. Jimmy Garoppolo was hurt. Elijah Mitchell was injured. Christian McCaffrey was hurt. Spencer Burford was hurt. Everyone in the stadium knew the Niners were going to run.
The Saints still didn’t touch the ball for the rest of the game.
On a day where the 49ers managed just 3.3 yards per carry, the offense imposed their will on the Saints for over six minutes and 11 plays. Even though New Orleans was throwing the kitchen sink at the offensive line, San Francisco kept moving forward. They only made seven first downs in the entire second half, but four of them came on that final drive.
“They were doing a great job stopping the run,” Kyle Shanahan said after the game, “I think you guys could see by our yards per carry, and we struggled a little bit on third down. We didn’t get any big ones, so that whole time we’re thinking of some passes to come back with if they score, but they never scored. So you keep trying to control that clock, and it was very great to not give that ball back to them because that was the first time we were able to impose our will on them. With just running the ball when they knew we were.”
Everyone got in on the act. Christian McCaffrey returned from a knee injury for a nine-yard gain. Jimmy Garoppolo executed another flawless quarterback sneak, and Jordan Mason chipped in with four carries for 25 yards. That last one was a welcome sight, considering both Mitchell and McCaffrey are banged up right now.
We all understand that the offense won’t win any beauty pageants for their performance, but they didn’t turn it over and executed in crunch time. With this defense, that is going to be enough to win most of the time.