NEW ORLEANS — Here is how the 49ers (11-2) graded in Sunday’s 48-46 win over the Saints (10-3):
PASS OFFENSE: A
Jimmy Garoppolo’s marquee game of this season featured four touchdown passes, 349 yards and a game-winning, last-minute drive. He was dialed in from the outset by threading passes to Emmanuel Sanders (seven catches, 157 yards, TD on 75-yard bomb). George Kittle came through with the game-saving play, a 39-yard reception on fourth-and-2 to highlight his days (six catches, 67 yards). Kendrick Bourne produced two touchdowns as an underrated red-zone threat, and Deebo Samuel came through big (76 receiving yards, 33 rushing yards). Not to be forgotten was Sanders’ 35-yard touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert.
RUN OFFENSE: A
No shortage of highlights in this category, either, and even Garoppolo showed off a much-needed burst to convert on third-and-2 on a fourth-quarter, field-goal drive. Mostert’s encore to last week’s career-best game featured him not only catching that Sanders’ surprise but produce 69 yards on 10 carries. Matt Breida’s return from a three-week break saw him rack up 54 yards on just nine carries, starting with a 28-yard run. Said Saints’ Cam Jordan: “They ended up with over a buck-fifty (162 yards rushing) on the ground. Whether that’s Jimmy scrambling, whether that’s the 15 running backs that they have in the backfield, it’s something that we knew coming in that we were going to have to stop.”
PASS DEFENSE: D
Fair grade? Heck, Drew Brees passed for five touchdowns, the first four coming on their initial possessions and the last one could have doomed the 49ers’ playoff fate. Brees’ quick trigger helped him avoid getting sacked. Nick Bosa is why this grade wasn’t an ‘F,’ because he played real well to get two hits on Brees and break up a pass. Marcell Harris, Jaquiski Tartt’s replacement at strong safety, struggled in coverage. Losing Richard Sherman (hamstring) and K’Waun Williams (concussion) to injuries is a concern that carries over to next week. Ahkello Witherspoon played well, aside from a dropped interception on the Saints’ final drive.
RUN DEFENSE: C
I didn’t like that Drew Brees could dive over for a 1-yard touchdown with no defender backing up D.J. Jones. I did like Jones forcing Alvin Kamara to fumble and DeForest Buckner recovering it. I didn’t like all the missed tackles from Harris, Fred Warner and others. I did like how the 49ers limited Taysom Hill’s gadget plays to 13 yards on five carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Kudos to Robbie Gould for converting the 30-yard, walk-off winner (which is shorter than point-after attempts from 32 yards) and making his earlier attempt from 40 yards. The coverage units struggled against rookie Deonte Harris (51-yard kickoff return, 25-yard punt return). Mitch Wishnowsky averaged only 32.3 net yards on three punts, and Richie James’ only punt return went for 3 yards. Wait, there were punts?
What a phenomenal display of play-calling by Shanahan, who said: “You decide on how many risky calls you want to keep doing based on how our defense is playing. But we knew we were going to come out early with that stuff, their offense was scoring a lot so I didn’t ever feel we should slow down with it.”
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