The San Francisco 49ers rode (7-4) another elite performance from their defense to a 13-0 win over the New Orleans Saints (4-8) on Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.
Sunday marked the 49ers first shutout and four game win streak since 2019. It was also the first time in 21 years the Saints were kept off the scoreboard.
San Francisco’s win, combined with Seattle losing to Las Vegas give the 49ers sole possession of the lead in the NFC West.
Here are the answers to the five questions I asked on Friday.
1. Will Jimmy Garoppolo stay hot? YES
Garoppolo had completed more than 70 percent of his passes over the previous four games. On Sunday he was once again over that total.
The 49ers quarterback finished 26 of 37 for 221 yards and one touchdown against New Orleans. He completed passes to eight different receivers.
With San Francisco nursing a three point lead late in the first half, Garoppolo stepped up. The veteran quarterback led a nine play, 57-yard drive. He completed six of eight passes on the drive for 50 yards, finishing it off when he hit Jauan Jennings from five yards out for a touchdown.
Garoppolo narrowly escaped injury as well when he was hit low after throwing an 11-yard completion to Brandon Aiyuk.
On the play, Garoppolo had escaped pressure out to his right and threw a strike to Aiyuk. Saints defensive tackle Malcolm Roach hit Garoppolo in the knee and was called for roughing the passer. Garoppolo was hobbled for several plays after the hit, but the 49ers were able to manage a field goal on the drive to go up 13-0.
Sunday marked Garoppolo’s fourth straight game without an interception. If Garoppolo can continue to play the way he has over the last five games the 49ers will be hard to beat.
2. Can the 49ers offense keep the run game churning? Kind of.
The 49ers rushing attack was a bit of a mixed bag on Sunday.
Elijah Mitchell had 35 yards on seven carries before leaving the game with an injury. His 32-yard burst for a touchdown late in the first half was wiped away by a holding call on George Kittle.
Deebo Samuel also fell victim to a holding penalty. His 16-yard gain on the 49ers opening possession of the second half was called back due to a Jake Brendel hold. Samuel finished with zero yards on two carries.
Christian McCaffrey struggled to find any rhythm on the ground. The starting running back finished with only 32 yards on 11 carries.
With Mitchell out, Jordan Mason saw his carries increase. The undrafted rookie free agent picked up 25 yards on five carries, most coming in the games closing moments.
As a team the 49ers finished with 96 yards on 29 carries. San Francisco’s average of 3.3 yards per carry was far below the 4.6 New Orleans had been allowing entering the game.
3. Can the 49ers defense slow down Andy Dalton? YES
Dalton was impressive on Sunday. The veteran quarterback continuously moved the Saints offense down the field, especially in the second half.
However, the 49ers defense did to Dalton what they have done to every quarterback not named Patrick Mahomes this season.
Other than a 35-yard completion to Rashid Shaheed, the 49ers defense kept everything in front of them. By forcing Dalton and the Saints offense to be methodical, San Francisco was able to eventually come up with several big stops in the second half.
New Orleans opened the second half with a 12-play, 45-yard drive. They came up empty when Will Lutz missed wide left from 48 yards out. The field goal attempt came after tight coverage from Deommodore Lenoir resulted in an incompletion on third and five.
The next New Orleans possession was another 12-play drive. This one covered 87 yards but the Saints again were turned away. This time it was the result of great teamwork by Dre Greenlaw and Talanoa Hufanga.
Dalton had nowhere to go, so he checked the ball down to running back Alvin Kamara. As Greenlaw struggled to bring Kamara down, Hufanga came up and got his helmet on the ball to jar it loose. A mad scramble ensued as the ball bounced from player to player before Greenlaw fell on it at the one yard line.
New Orleans had one more shot at getting back into the game when they took possession after a punt on the 49ers 39. The Saints got down to the 49ers four only to see Dalton throw three consecutive incompletions. On fourth and goal, Nick Bosa blew around the edge to drop Dalton for the 49ers only sack of the game.
4. Will San Francisco be able to stop Tayson Hill? YES
San Francisco held Taysom Hill to only 20 yards on seven touches. Hills biggest gain came when he made a reception for seven yards on the Saints opening play of the game.
He was mostly a non-factor as the 49ers allowed New Orleans to convert only four of 13 third down attempts.
5. Which team holds on to the ball? San Francisco
New Orleans came into Sunday with a turnover differential of -12. They saw this grow to -14 against the 49ers with a pair of fumbles by Alvin Kamara.
The 49ers improved to 18-3 since 2021 when they turn the ball over less than or the same number of times as their opponent.
49ers 27 Saints 17