SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Three straight second-half shutouts were impressive for the San Francisco 49ers. Their prideful defense knew they were capable of even more.
With physical hits, a key forced fumble and a little but of good fortune, the Niners managed to keep New Orleans off the scoreboard for an entire game.
San Francisco forced two fumbles from Alvin Kamara and ended the NFL's longest active scoring streak at 332 games and nearly 21 years, beating the New Orleans Saints 13-0 for their fourth straight win.
“This one was was really special because the way we had to get it,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “It’s not like they were just behind the 50-yard line all game. They were right there sniffing the goal line multiple times. Time kind of slows down in those moments where you’re looking teammates in the eyes and saying ‘We have to pull this off.’ These are the ones you remember forever.”
The Niners (7-4) set the tone on defense from the opening drive, when Warner forced a fumble by Kamara that he recovered, and they didn't let up from there.
They stopped the Saints (4-8) near the goal line twice in the second half — including another fumble by Kamara to post their first shutout since beating Washington 9-0 on Oct. 20, 2019.
New Orleans had the fourth longest in NFL history with their last shutout also coming at the hands of the 49ers in the 2001 finale.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 222 yards and a touchdown, and San Francisco won on a day when the offense wasn't clicking and the running game was bottled up.
The Niners haven't allowed a point in more than 94 minutes of game action. They are also the fifth team since 1991 to go four straight games without allowing a second-half point.
Andy Dalton threw for 204 yards and the Saints were held to just 63 on the ground.
“We had some opportunities, and you’re not going to beat a good team unless you make plays that are there to be made,” coach Dennis Allen said. "If you turn the football over, you’re not going to beat a good team.
Wil Lutz missed a 48-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter after Ryan Ramczyk committed a false start when the Saints attempted to go for it on fourth-and-5.
Kamara then fumbled again near the goal line on a wild play in the fourth quarter. Talanoa Hufanga knocked it loose and Juwan Johnson nearly caught it in the end zone for a Saints touchdown.
But the ball squirted loose after Johnson was hit by Hassan Ridgeway, and Dre Greenlaw recovered at the 1 to keep the Saints off the scoreboard.
“Just crazy effort,” Greenlaw said. “I looked in the air and saw the ball like 30 feet in the air and said ’Oh snap!” I’m trying to go get the ball and I see one of the guys catch the ball as I’m trying to go get it. Then he dropped it and it was like Christmas right there.”
San Francisco then stopped the Saints after a first-and-goal from the 4 when Nick Bosa sacked Dalton on fourth down. The Niners ran out the clock from there.
“This is the best defense I ever played on,” cornerback Charvarius Ward said. “We're just ballers.”
San Francisco came out passing for a second straight week, with Garoppolo throwing a career-high 28 passes in the first half — the most by a 49ers QB in a first half in 13 years.
But it didn't lead to much scoring with San Francisco settling for a field goal on the opening drive and then scoring on a 5-yard TD pass from Garoppolo to Jauan Jennings with 13 seconds left in the half.
During one third-quarter drive for the 49ers, officials called penalties on four straight plays. An interception by Garoppolo was negated by an illegal contact penalty on Chris Harris Jr. to start the barrage of flags and deny the Saints a chance at first-and-goal from the 8.
“I don’t agree with the call,” Allen said. “It was a big play in the game. A huge play in the game. A total momentum-changing call in the game.”
San Francisco center Jake Brendel was then called for holding on the next play, followed by a roughing the passer on Malcolm Roach and an illegal shift on Kyle Juszczyk.
Saints: CB P.J. Williams (knee) got hurt in the first half.
49ers: RB Elijah Mitchell left the game in third quarter with a possible sprained MCL. ... OL Spence Burford sprained his ankle in the second half and didn't return.
Saunts: Visit Tampa Bay on Dec. 5.
49ers: Host Miami on Sunday.
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