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Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

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49ers Notebook: Shanahan talks Saints, 2nd-half shutouts, rushing attack; Ryans on teammates helping Bosa

Nov 23, 2022 at 5:54 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers have won three consecutive games and are probably feeling pretty good heading into their Week 12 matchup against the New Orleans Saints. No one is overlooking the 4-7 team, though. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has been impressed with New Orleans' defense, understanding that the 49ers' seventh win of the season won't come easy.

"Just starting with their defense, they look like a [Saints head coach] Dennis Allen team," Shanahan said. "They've been, to me, one of the best defenses in the league here over the last five or six years. I don't think their numbers are quite there as they usually are, but I think a lot of that has to do with they've been missing about seven starters a number of these games. But they are as tough, and physical, and as sound as anyone we played this year.

"Offensively, starting with [RB Alvin] Kamara, [TE] Taysom Hill, those two guys right there account for half their explosives, half their touchdowns. [QB] Andy Dalton is a guy I have a lot of respect for. They've lost some close games, they've had some very unfortunate injuries, but I think we have our work cut out for us, without a doubt."

Second-half shutouts

The 49ers defense has shut out its opponent in the second half of the last three games. The unit hopes to extend the streak on Sunday against the Saints. However, Shanahan explained why he has also been impressed with the defense in the first halves of those games.

"I think the coolest part is, even from the Rams game, it's stuck out big to me because we struggled a little bit versus Kansas City, and we came out versus the Rams, and it seemed like they went down the field twice, and we weren't going to be able to stop them and then we just shut them down in the second half," Shanahan said. "And when we got on the plane, and you watch that first half, I felt like it was as good as the second half. We just had a couple plays where they got us. They got us once schematically, and we had a bust on the other, but we were playing that type of football.

And then I feel if you watch it the last two weeks, it's been the same story. Even versus the Chargers, I thought we had a hell of a first half on defense, but they hit us on a bust on a corner for a touchdown, and they got us going across the field just on a good play call by them, but I kind of feel it's been the same."

Shanahan added, "When you protect the ball, you don't turn it over, you don't get a lot of penalties, usually the way you're playing ends up leading to a victory in the end."

The defensive players aren't focused on the streak of second-half shutouts, though.

"For us, guys aren't really thinking about that," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. "We're thinking about just playing clean football, and really the emphasis is, man, how do we do this in the first half? Can we not give up the bonehead play in the first half to even allow teams to be in position to have to now shut them out in the second half?

"The mindset is can we go out and play our best for the entire game? That's always the mindset, just playing better, playing cleaner technique, and being on the fundamentals of our job. But can we do it for four quarters? Not so much emphasis on the second half.

"Guys have done a great job in the second half of being where they're supposed to be making plays that they're supposed to make, but they're doing an outstanding job. I can't give those guys enough credit. If you want to win games, you have to close it out in the second half, and they've done that the past three weeks."

Run game is clicking

As a team, the 49ers have rushed for 101 or more yards in each of the last four games. That goes back to Week 7's contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, running back Christian McCaffrey's first game with the team.

San Francisco has rushed for 316 total yards over the last two games. Things are definitely clicking with the run game.

"I think it helps getting your starting running back back," Shanahan said. "I think losing Elijah [Mitchell] early, I think we were running for like seven yards per play at that time, so I think that always is tough when you lose that. I thought [former 49ers RB] Jeff [Wilson Jr.] stepped it up well for us.

"And now getting Elijah back, adding Christian [McCaffrey], we've gotten a few big ones, and usually it evens out, but we had some pretty impressive blocks just getting those extra ones on Monday night, so it was a pretty cool game for us."

Bosa getting help from teammates

Nick Bosa has to at least be in the conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The fourth-year pass rusher has 10.5 sacks to go along with his 30 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and 27 quarterback hits through nine games played (he missed Week 6).

According to Pro Football Focus, Bosa has 14 total pressures over the last two weeks. That's tied with two players for the most in the league over that span—Von Miller of the Buffalo Bills and 49ers teammate Charles Omenihu.

Today, a reporter brought that particular statistic to the attention of the 49ers' defensive coordinator.

"Yeah, Charles has done a really good job over the past couple of weeks," Ryans said. "Sometimes those inside guys, it goes unnoticed how much presence they bring. And Charles, with the length that he has, he's able to utilize that length to really make it tough on the quarterback. So, Charles, he's done a great job. He's getting better each and every week. He is applying pressure to the quarterback.

"Bosa may get most of the attention because he actually gets the quarterback down a lot more, and he's our best player, without a doubt. But Bosa can't do what he's able to do on the edge if it's not for [the others]. It's Kevin Givens, it's Kerry Hyder, it's Charles, it's Drake [Jackson], all those guys inside doing their job that allows Bosa to excel on the outside."
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