Three Takeaways from the 49ers Week 12 win over the Saints

Nov 28, 2022, 1:30 PM | Updated: 4:24 pm

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after a win over the New Orleans...

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 27: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after a win over the New Orleans Saints at Levi's Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers are now riding a four-game win streak thanks to a dominant defensive performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12. Holding the Big Easy team to zero points is quite the accomplishment, but the Red & Gold are just happy with the win, now a full game ahead in the NFC West standings at 7-4.

“Mission accomplished,” defensive end Nick Bosa said after the game Sunday. “You’ve got to protect every blade of grass. And we did.”

The 49ers now have a reunion of sorts on the horizon as the Miami Dolphins and head coach Mike McDaniel come to town for a showdown of the NFL’s elite. But before we get there, let’s recap a few takeaways that could linger into Week 13.

Defense Wins Championships

It’s a saying as old as time (at least since team sports were created) and the 49ers used a team effort Sunday to shut out the Saints in Levi’s Stadium.

Some stats for you: The New Orleans Saints have not been shut out in 332 games played, regular and postseason.  The last time the Saints were held scoreless was Week 17 in 2001 (I was one). The team to hold them scoreless more than 20 years ago: San Francisco, beating New Orleans 38-0. A wild piece of history that now belongs to the Red & Gold.

It wasn’t easy though, facing 16 plays inside the team’s 30-yard-line in the second half alone. But each time the 49ers faced adversity, they stonewalled the Saints, including two pivotal fourth-down stops at the goal line.

The first came with more than 11 minutes to go in the game when New Orleans faced a fourth down at the inside the ten. Quarterback Andy Dalton found running back Alvin Kamara in the flat, immediately met by 49ers LB Dre Greenlaw for the stop. Fighting through the tackle, safety Talanoa Hufanga speared the ball loose from Kamara, causing chaos on the field that ultimately ended with the home team recovering the ball at the one-yard line.

The second came with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

This time it was Nick Bosa coming up clutch, timing his jump perfectly to get a beat on Dalton for the game-sealing sack. Bosa now has 11.5 sacks on the season, third in the entire league as he makes his case for defensive player of the year.

One stop in goal-to-go situations is usually sufficient, but to get two in the span of five minutes. Absurd.

San Francisco has now played six straight quarters without allowing a point scored on them. Even more amazing, the Red & Gold have held their opponents scoreless in 11 of the 22 halves played this season.

“Film don’t lie. You turn on the silent tape, you see all 11 people running around fiercely trying to play football and take somebody’s head off, and I just don’t see that from other teams,” linebacker Dre Greenlaw said postgame.

Hard to disagree.

A Tale of an Inconsistent Offense

After the unit’s best showing six days prior in Mexico, the 49ers turned back into a pumpkin offensively in Week 12.

Here’s how each possession went for San Francisco: Field goal, punt, punt, turnover on downs, touchdown, field goal, punt, punt. To summarize the unit’s day at the office, not great.

The offensive line in particular had one of their worst showings of the season, allowing 14 pressures on QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The linemen also committed four penalties in a very forgettable performance.

Typically, the 49ers’ offensive line woes this season have come on the outside. Sunday it was the opposite, with young guards Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford giving up nine pressures combined against the Saints’ pass rush. The run game also struggled, only able to muster 96 yards on the ground.

To make matters worse, Burford left the game early with an ankle injury (more on that in a second).

Not a great day for SF offensively, which some are chalking up to a short week and altitude adjustments. Nevertheless, you expect more production from a team loaded with weapons, making Week 13 against the Dolphins vital for the longevity of this team.

The Injury Bug Returns

Just when the Red & Gold were getting healthy, everyone’s least favorite in-law has come back to town.

Sunday’s game saw the 49ers lose Burford, and both starting running backs Elijah Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey to injury before the contest was over.

The offensive lineman left the game in the second half with an ankle injury described by head coach Kyle Shanahan as a “lateral” injury. This is the best-case scenario as a high-ankle sprain would put the rookie from UTSA on the shelf for most of the remaining regular season schedule. Burford’s timeline is currently unknown, but he was spotted in a walking boot leaving the stadium.

The worst of the injuries came to Elijah Mitchell, likely suffering a second MCL sprain early in the second half of Week 12. Mitchell had returned from an MCL sprain to his other knee after the team’s bye, and will likely endure another extended absence after getting rolled up on Sunday. He finished with seven carries for 35 yards.

Meanwhile, McCaffrey is dealing with “knee irritation” sustained Sunday against the Saints. The exact moment of the injury is a bit foggy as the team held CMC out of multiple plays/series early in the third quarter. He eventually returned to the contest but was visibly uncomfortable with the lower body injury. A player known for his injury woes, McCaffrey hasn’t played a full season since 2019.

A dominant win for the team, but it came at a price Sunday afternoon.


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