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What’s the significance of the 49ers’ shutout of the Saints for the defense?

DeMeco Ryans’ ‘Swarm Mentality’ infected San Francisco’s defense Sunday.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers held the New Orleans Saints scoreless for the first time since their January 6th matchup in 2002. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans continues to lead an elite defense to the franchise’s sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy. We look at what San Francisco’s Week 12 shutout means below.

That base defense was hittin’

New Orleans thought it would be a good idea to line up in 21 personnel against the 49ers’ defense. I’m sure Ryans was licking his chops to send the base unit out there. Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Azeez Al-Shaair wreak havoc when they’re on the field together. Warner halted the Saints’ first drive with a forced fumble.

Samson Ebukam fights across the left tackles wide split while the left guard and former 49er Kevin White climb to Al-Shaair. Warner cleans up Talanoa Hufanga’s whiff with a clean strip to give Kyle Shanahan’s offense great field position.

The 49ers bend but don’t break

The defense would go on to force four punts to end the first half. Andy Dalton stood strong in the pocket to deliver several good throws. However, the Saints’ offense had the ball inside the 49ers’ 43-yard line on five different occasions. Yet, they came away with zero points.

Dalton’s threatening throws kept the secondary on their toes, and will continue to prep them for the names of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle next week. Ryans will need his defensive line to generate more pressure to help slow down those two.

The amount of goal line stands Ryans’ defense forced in the last two seasons is something

Ryans’ relentless defense swarmed Kamara for a second time, on the goal line up 13 points in the fourth quarter. Dalton drove 87 yards for Ryans’ unit to jar the ball from Kamara again. Greenlaw holds Kamara up while Hufanga gets his lick back to force the fumble. Nearly four other players would touch the ball before San Francisco recovered.

Greenlaw talked about what it meant to shut out the Saints and walked us through the goal-line turnover. “We were in cloud coverage, and I had inside leverage, and he tried to get away from me, and I saw the QB the whole way.”

Chris Olave’s 19-yard catch on 3rd and 2 midway through the fourth quarter gave the Saints a final swing at a comeback. However, Ryans’ defense stepped up again after Deommodore Lenoir’s holding call on 3rd down pushed New Orleans to San Francisco’s four-yard line. Dalton did not complete another pass, and Nick Bosa ended the drive with a sack on fourth down.

What’s the significance of the shutout?

This shutout means everything for the 49ers and, most importantly, DeMeco Ryans. I was the biggest doubter of the starting safeties, and Ryans has closed the middle of the field with both of them not named Jimmie Ward. Dalton led New Orleans in rushing (29), while San Francisco held Alvin Kamara to 13 yards on seven carries. The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 7 and will have a tough task against the run against the Miami Dolphins next week.

I know the Saints aren’t flooded with talent, but San Francisco needed this gritty win to strengthen their woes of the past. Ryans’ ‘bend, but don’t break defense’ will continue to be the backbone of this 49ers team.