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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Saints offensive grades: Niners face toughest opponent of year

Rohan Chakravarthi
Nov 30, 2022 at 6:00 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers defeated the New Orleans Saints 13-0 in a defensive showdown where neither side could capitalize on opportunities on the offensive side.

Unfortunately for San Francisco, they could not escape the game without injuries as both running backs Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell suffered knee injuries, while right guard Spencer Burford left the game with an ankle injury.

Here are the offensive grades for the 49ers against the Saints.

Quarterback: C

Jimmy Garoppolo spent the majority of the game hitting his checkdowns as the Saints were able to maintain coverage while getting pressure with four pass-rushers, making it hard to move the ball downfield.

The Saints did a phenomenal job defensively against the 49ers, taking away several route concepts, while defending the run at a high level.

However, Garoppolo had several execution whiffs that resulted in missed opportunities for the 49ers.

On San Francisco's first drive, Garoppolo had the chance for a touchdown pass, but made the poor decision of throwing to a double-covered George Kittle instead of identifying the 1-on-1 matchup with Brandon Aiyuk on a corner route that would've likely resulted in seven points.

Then, on the ensuing drive, Garoppolo missed Christian McCaffrey deep on a wheel route, when the 49ers got their preferred matchup with him out of the backfield. Had the pass been completed, the 49ers would've had another opportunity to score a touchdown.

Garoppolo's accuracy was subpar on Sunday as he missed easy throws, while also having poor ball placement on several plays, resulting in minimal yards after the catch. When Garoppolo did make good decisions, the execution was thwarted by the accuracy at times, and it came in key situations.

On San Francisco's fourth drive, Garoppolo missed an open Jauan Jennings after correctly reading the defensive formation, throwing the ball too far inside on what would've been a short touchdown pass.

San Francisco's veteran quarterback also went through his progressions too quickly at times, bypassing open players in favor of more contested options.

Perhaps this was due to a lack of trust in the offensive line, but the decision-making led to a lack of execution.

The 30-year-old made several nice throws, threading the needle to Jauan Jennings in the fourth quarter, while hitting an open shot to Brandon Aiyuk earlier in the game, but his inconsistent play left several opportunities on the board that limited the 49ers to 13 points.

Running Backs: B+

When looking at the rushing numbers for the 49ers, you wouldn't expect a high grade, given that the team failed to eclipse 100 yards and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.

However, the stats don't show the full picture, as the running backs didn't have any consistent running lanes due to the ferocious defense of the Saints.

Elijah Mitchell was San Francisco's leading rusher, primarily seeing action in the middle of the game before sustaining an MCL sprain early in the second half.

Mitchell's seven carries for 35 yards were hard-fought runs and the second-year back even improvised a 12-yard gain after it appeared he would be stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

Mitchell had a nice 32-yard touchdown, but the play was brought back due to a holding penalty, taking away the score.

Christian McCaffrey struggled to find running lanes as the Saints clogged up space all across the board, making it hard to reach the second level of the defense.

McCaffrey was involved as a pass-catcher once again, catching four passes for 17 yards, but dropping one target as well. New Orleans was quick to reach the talented running back once he caught the ball, limiting yards after the catch.

Jordan Mason entered the game after Mitchell's injury and shined, running hard downfield and breaking through contact for several noteworthy gains.

In fact, Mason secured the final first down that gave San Francisco the opportunity to take a knee and run out the clock, finishing with five carries for 25 yards.

Overall, it wasn't the best day for the running backs, but they were far from the reason why the run game was inefficient on Sunday.

Wide Receivers: B

Brandon Aiyuk led the 49ers with five catches and 65 yards on eight targets, but could've had a much bigger game if not for missed opportunities.

The third-year receiver had a touchdown opportunity on San Francisco's initial drive, but Garoppolo elected to hit a double-covered George Kittle, forcing a field goal try.

On the ensuing drive, Aiyuk found himself open on an intermediate curl route, but the pressure on Garoppolo forced a quicker checkdown, resulting in a smaller gain.

Aiyuk had a big-play opportunity on a 1-on-1, but a defensive back made a good play, knocking the ball out of his hands. Later, Aiyuk got his revenge, earning separation on a 1-on-1 opportunity for a touchdown, but Garoppolo underthrew him, allowing the defensive back to make a play on the ball.

On one of Aiyuk's receptions, the wideout was positioned for a bigger gain after the catch due to his defender being a linebacker, but the throw was behind him, eliminating the YAC opportunity.

Deebo Samuel often found himself double-covered by the Saints' defense, and struggled to gain separation once again, catching three passes for 43 yards on seven targets.

Jauan Jennings had a strong performance with six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown, including a clutch fourth-quarter reception to convert a first down.

While Jennings' lone incompletion was a drop, he made an impact on the remainder of his plays as San Francisco's second-leading receiver.

Ray-Ray McCloud made a fantastic catch on San Francisco's initial drive, high-pointing a rushed throw from Jimmy Garoppolo to a nice location, and hauling it in with a defensive back in close range.

Separation for the pass catchers was an issue for a good portion of the game, leading to a lower average depth of target and yards per attempt for Jimmy Garoppolo while being pressured consistently.

Tight Ends: B-

George Kittle caught three passes for 26 yards on four targets, serving as a smaller part of the passing game with a heavy load going towards Aiyuk, Samuel, Jennings, and McCaffrey.

Kittle made a nice contested catch on a good throw from Jimmy Garoppolo for a third-down conversion during San Francisco's third drive offensively.

But, Kittle did whiff on a block in the running game and saw double coverages on several routes, minimizing his direct impact.

Behind him, no tight end really had much impact on the game.

Offensive Line: C+

The offensive line struggled in the running game on Sunday, failing to create holes for running backs and getting pushed back on several plays.

San Francisco's interior offensive line of Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, and Spencer Burford had done fairly well heading into the game, but the trio was inconsistent in this matchup against the Saints, who came in with an excellent gameplan.

Banks' main issue was anchoring, both in the run game and the passing attack, as he allowed defenders to push him back, getting into Jimmy Garoppolo's airspace and forcing checkdowns.

Brendel also couldn't move the needle, getting beaten on a nice stunt from David Onyemata, while missing on some blocks on McCaffrey runs that led to minimal gains.

Burford had an early whiff in pass protection, not picking up the edge rusher on a shift that led to a pressure and quarterback hit on Jimmy Garoppolo.

Burford, despite his size, did struggle to move defenders in the running game, similar to his counterparts.

Trent Williams looked human in this game, getting beaten in the running game on several plays, as well as some pass-blocking reps that forced Jimmy Garoppolo to get the ball out quick.

The offensive line will look to bounce back from their performance against a high-flying Dolphins team that traded for Bradley Chubb at the deadline next weekend.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

1 Comment

  • BigAl
    Yea I mean we barely escaped this game. We got lucky on JGs INT and were fortunate to face a toothless Saints attack. My fear is all the issues in this game are kind of foreshadowing the things that will ultimately prevent us from our goal this year. We just dont have the explosive ability to make something out of nothing like a Buffalo, KC, or Philly can. Obviously not all defenses are elite like a healthy Saints defense, but I could make an argument that healthy Philadelphia, Dallas, and Buffalo defenses are better. I hate that it all comes back to JG but thats the reality of it. I mean Our OL is relatively good and is better in pass pro than in recent seasons. We have many weapons although Ill admit, I dont believe Deebo or Kittle are elite as pure receivers. But you cant have everything, any other QB wants to play here. JG has always stuggled versus good defenses and this was no different. Wait until teams start doubling or jumping Jennings routes on 3rd down. Im kind of in a hurry and I realize im not wording my thoughts the best right now but this performance was very worrisone for me.
    Dec 2, 2022 at 1:20 PM


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