SANTA CLARA — The 49ers’ offense showed signs over the previous three games of catching up to the dominance of their defense.
On Sunday, there was little doubt about how the 49ers are wired.
The defense again won the day, as the 49ers overcame a lackluster offensive performance to escape with a 13-0 victory over the New Orleans Saints at Levi’s Stadium.
The defense stepped up in big spots in the fourth quarter.
Dre Greenlaw and Talanoa Hufanga teamed up for one of the big defensive plays of the game. Early in the fourth quarter, Greenlaw wrapped up Saints running back Alvin Kamara near the goal line. Hufanga made a hit that jarred the ball loose, and Greenlaw came up with the recovery at the 49ers’ 1-yard line.
Then, defensive end Nick Bosa registered a sack of Andy Dalton on a fourth-and-goal situation from the 4-yard line.
New Orleans suffered its first shutout in nearly 21 years.
The 49ers’ fourth consecutive win improves their record to 7-4 on the season with home games upcoming against the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Here is a look at the takeaways from the 49ers’ victory:
Depth at running back tested
Running back Elijah Mitchell was ruled out of the game in the third quarter due to a knee injury, and after the game, coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that the second-year pro sustained a possible MCL injury.
For a period of time in the third quarter, the 49ers turned to undrafted rookie running back Jordan Mason when starter Christian McCaffrey appeared to be banged up, too.
McCaffrey returned to the game and finished with 32 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The 49ers had a difficult time getting anything going on the ground against the Saints, who stacked the line of scrimmage.
Mitchell gained 35 yards on seven rushing attempts before exiting the game.
The 49ers had three running backs active for the game. Third-round draft pick Ty Davis-Price was inactive, and veteran Tevin Coleman has a spot on the 49ers’ practice squad.
After the 49ers acquired McCaffrey in a trade from the Carolina Panthers, the team traded Jeff Wilson Jr. to the Miami Dolphins for a fifth-round draft pick
Garoppolo continues to compile good numbers
It certainly was not a perfect game for Garoppolo. But the final stat sheet was impressive.
Garoppolo, who is having the best season of his career, completed 26 of 37 passes for 222 yards with one touchdown pass and no interceptions. His passer rating was 94.7.
It was not always pretty for the 49ers’ passing game, as they converted just five of 13 third-down attempts.
In the first half, Garoppolo overthrew running back Christian McCaffrey on a wheel route along the left sideline that would have gone for a big gain.
The 49ers’ only touchdown came late in the first half when Garoppolo’s pass was deflected and landed in the hands of Jauan Jennings for a 5-yard score.
The 49ers scored inside the two-minute warning of the first half in their fourth consecutive game.
Listless first half after returning home
The 49ers played well in their emotional victory Monday night in Mexico City.
They did not carry over that offensive momentum to the first half Sunday against the Saints.
The offense had difficulty running against New Orleans’ loaded box. And it was not until the final minute of the first half that Garoppolo and the offense got rolling.
Leading 3-0, the 49ers took over at their own 43 with 1:47 remaining in the first half. Garoppolo engineered a nine-play, 57-yard touchdown drive.
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Garoppolo threw the 5-yard touchdown pass to Jennings to give the 49ers a 10-0 lead with :13 remaining in the half.
But even that was not easy. Saints defensive back Tyrann Mathieu got his hand on Garoppolo’s throw to the back of the end zone. The ball fluttered into the air, and Jennings adjusted to make the catch before landing on his back.