Mistakes were the name of the game as San Francisco outperformed the Saints in a number of categories but came up short in the 27-13 loss in New Orleans. The 49ers started off fast, putting up 10 points over their first three drives, however, New Orleans managed 27 unanswered points through three quarters as the 49ers struggled to keep up.
Here are nine takeaways from the game.
New Orleans caught steam following two unfortunate drives by San Francisco. A muffed punt by San Francisco in the second quarter gave the Saints possession at the 49ers 21. The ensuing drive, a stop behind the line of scrimmage by Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata on 4th-and-1 set up New Orleans inside their own 41. Both short field drives resulted in touchdowns by Saints do-it-all running back Alvin Kamara to take the lead going into the half.
"I think it really came down to turnovers and that was most disheartening," Kyle Shanahan said postgame. "If we took care of the ball with the effort that all the guys gave, I think it could've been a much different result."
All three of the Saints touchdowns on the day, which were each scored by Kamara, came off of short drives. The Saints scored 10 points on drives that began inside their own territory. Seventeen points came on possessions that started at San Francisco's 25, 21 and 22-yard lines.
2. Hot Start
The 49ers opened the game with a well-executed 13-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 4-yard touchdown pass from Nick Mullens to Brandon Aiyuk. San Francisco overcame three third downs and chipped nearly seven and a half minutes off the clock before New Orleans' first opportunity on offense.
The 49ers got bailed out of a lackluster second drive with a muffed punt by Saints return specialist Deonte Harris. Initialing a fair catch, the ball bounced off Harris' facemask and was recovered by second-year safety Marcell Harris midfield. Saints Harris muffed another punt in the third quarter that was recovered by a Saints player after a hit by cornerback Ken Webster.
San Francisco's drive stalled inside their own 10-yard line, in part due to a tackle for loss on a Jerick McKinnon carry by former 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander. The drive resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal.
Through the first quarter, the 49ers registered nine first downs to zero for New Orleans and had possession of the ball for 13:43 compared to 1:21 of the Saints.
3. Defensive Hold
Meanwhile, defensively, San Francisco held the Saints to just 11 plays over their first three possessions.
The defense continued to hold up in the second quarter despite New Orleans starting their drive at the 49ers 35 yard line following a 75-yard kickoff return by Harris. San Francisco forced two incompletions, including a deflected pass by rookie Javon Kinlaw.
4. Javon Kinlaw
In addition to his deflected pass, Javon Kinlaw also registered a run stop on a 3rd-and-2 play by Saints quarterback Taysom Hill that forced a New Orleans punt. Going into the game, the rookie was eagerly awaiting his first-career sack. He notched 1.5 on Sunday on one of his best performances of his young career.
"He's an aggressive guy," Kerry Hyder Jr. said. "The sky is the limit for him. I was just really happy for him today. He was able to get on the board with one. I just know each week he's been getting better and better. And it's going to start getting scary for people."
5. Questionable Call
Drew Brees looked shaken up following a sack by Kentavius Street. The third-year defensive lineman was penalized for roughing the passer after the play, negating his first-career sack. According to Shanahan on the play, the officials said Street drove the quarterback into the ground and landed on him, despite the pass rusher landing on his side. Brees was later replaced by Jameis Winston in the second half.
6. Lopsided Outing
By the stat sheet, the numbers favored San Francisco. The 49ers registered 21 first downs (Saints - 17), 7-of-16 on third down (Saints - 2-of-12), 281 net yards (Saints - 237), 66 offensive plays (Saints - 56) and 32:54 time of possession (Saints - 27:06).
7. More Defensive Standouts
- Hyder Jr. registered a sack against Winston at the top of the fourth quarter. Kinlaw and Jordan Willis split a sack on the following play. Hyder now leads the team with 5.5 on the season.
The back-to-back sacks were part of the 49ers two goal line stops, holding New Orleans out of the end zone. The sacks were coupled with two incomplete passes and a run stop against Kamara.
- Tarvarius Moore and Jimmie Ward forced a fumble on Hill on a quarterback designed run. Harris recovered the ball, his second fumble recovery of the day. Ward also registered a breakup on a pass intended for Saints tight end Jared Cook.
- San Francisco's defense limited Brees, Winston and Hill to just 123 yards passing.
8. Injury Updates
Several 49ers left Sunday's contest and did not return. Here's an update on a few players who exited the game due to injury.
Mullens left the game for a play after getting the wind knocked out of him. C.J. Beathard stepped in for a snap before Mullens returned to the contest.
As for Hasty, Shanahan revealed the rookie ball carrier suffered a broken collar bone and is likely to miss time. Hasty now adds to Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson Jr. as San Francisco's injured running backs.
9. Much Needed Rest
The 49ers will head into their much-needed Week 11 Bye. According to Shanahan, the hope is that San Francisco's current players can get rest, but also provides the opportunity for several of the aforementioned players to return from injury.
"I just want to get more time for guys to come back," Shanahan said. "Hopefully with an extra week off, I'm hoping to get at least a couple guys back on offense and I know we're gonna get hopefully one back on defense, maybe more. And not just for them, giving them more time, but it's a chain reaction. We've had a lot of guys who have had to be out there a lot, some rotational players who have been carrying the load for way too long.
"They need some rest. They need to get away. We'll have a couple days just to keep guys loose and moving around a little bit so we don't get too far away from football. This is as much of a needed rest as a team I've been on."