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‘Third and Jauan’ takes over when the 49ers need him most

Jauan Jennings came up clutch for the Niners offense against the Saints

New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Jauan Jennings has to be an afterthought when it comes to preparing for an offense that features George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Christian McCaffrey. Yet, it was Jennings who hauled in six receptions for 49 yards, including his first touchdown of the season to put the game out of reach the way the defense was playing.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said, “Jauan’s clutch for us, and he kept us out on the field a couple of times and got us those points.” That’s been the story all season for Jennings, who has taken everything to another level this year. Watch this route he had in the second quarter against Saints cornerback Chris Harris:

Even Shanahan noticed the route. He spoke about it postgame: “Jauan made him fall on that route too. I’m not positive on that, but I just saw the release from Jauan, and I mean, it was filthy. That’s a damn good nickel back, Chris Harris. So, for Jauan to do that to him, that was a hell of a route, man.”

During the drive before halftime, Jennings caught a 13-yard pass on third down to keep the drive alive. He followed that up with a 12-yarder, where he did most of the work that included nine yards after the catch. Add in another 12-yard pass that was the route above, and Jimmy Garoppolo rewarded Jauan with a touchdown pass. That’s as active as any receiver will get during one drive, let alone the fifth option on a team.

Jennings was making an impact without touching the ball. You could see him and Harris chirping all game. The route above was the breaking point, as Harris was flagged for a personal foul which gave the 49ers' offense a free 15 yards. Here’s more from Shanahan on Jennings: “Yeah, I think I’d get annoyed trying to tackle Jauan. It’s hard, man. It’s not easy bringing a big guy like that down. And all of our guys play like that, and I think it just wears out teams.”

Jennings was asked if he liked the term third and Jennings, and his response was I like the term third and Jauan. He has 24 receptions on the year, and 17 have gone for first downs. So, 70 percent of the time, if a pass is headed for Jennings, it’s going to end up as a first down for the Niners. That’s efficient.

Sunday was the most Jennings had been targeted all year. It was also his highest reception and yards total since Week 1. In an offense loaded with talent, you never know when your number will get called. However, Jennings doesn’t let that affect his style of play or effort. Before the string of consecutive catches, Jennings TKO’d Harris with this block:

It’s easy to reward any player when that’s how intense they play.