NFL Power Rankings: 49ers Climb into Top Three Following Saints Shutout

There are many ways to win football games in the National Football League, and the San Francisco 49ers showed off the dominance of their defense in their latest victory. The 49ers Week 12 matchup against the New Orleans Saints was a defensive battle from start to finish, and DeMeco Ryans' unit put together San Francisco's first shutout since Week 7 of the 2019 season to secure the win.

"It feels great. That's our goal every week," linebacker Fred Warner said. "It's easier said than done. This one was really special because of the way we had to get it done. 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 your teammates in the eyes and saying, 'We have to pull this off.' These are the ones you remember forever."

Warner set the tone for the defense early, punching out a ball from Saints running back Alvin Kamara during the opening drive. Defensive lineman Samson Ebukam recovered the fumble to help set up the 49ers first field goal. A similar scene played out in the fourth quarter when safety Talanoa Hufanga forced another fumble at the goal line that was recovered by linebacker Dre Greenlaw, robbing New Orleans of one of their two red zone opportunities. In addition to the these two momentum-changing plays, defensive back Jimmie Ward played sticky coverage on Saints rookie Chris Olave that resulted in a 30-yard catch play being called back and defensive lineman Nick Bosa added a game-sealing sack to bring his season total to 11.5.

On offense, it was wide receiver Jauan Jennings that stole the show, scoring his first touchdown of the season in the final minute of the first half. He closed out the game with six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.

Here's a look at the latest NFL power rankings from several national outlets:

Around the NFL Writer Dan Hanzus

"The 49ers are an NFL superpower because they can thump you in different ways. Two Mondays ago in Mexico City, we saw what the offense can do when it's in a groove. On Sunday against the Saints, it was the defense's turn to flex its muscles in a 13-0 win. The Niners have not allowed a second-half point during their four-game winning streak, with opponents averaging a meager 10 points per game in that span. DeMeco Ryans' group will enter December as the No. 1 defense in the NFL in both yards and points allowed. The Niners have never finished a season atop both categories simultaneously in their rich history. There's something special cooking in Santa Clara."

ESPN: 7

NFL Writer Nick Wagoner on his realistic expectation of the 49ers reaching the Super Bowl

"The Niners haven't shied away from this being the objective, even going so far as to tell the world they believe they can when they traded for running back Christian McCaffrey. Anything less would be considered a disappointment, with the question then becoming whether they can actually win it. Whether they can knock off a team like the Kansas City Chiefs is a different issue, but realistically, this team has everything it needs to at least be in the big game."

NFL Writer Mike Florio

"The defense is so good, it doesn't matter what they do on offense."

Every other team in the NFC West has lost at least two-straight games, creating some separation from the 49ers and the rest of the division. The Seattle Seahawks lost 40-34 in overtime to the Las Vegas Raiders and fell two spots to No. 14. The Arizona Cardinals lost a heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Chargers but managed to keep their No. 22 spot in the rankings. And finally, the Los Angeles Rams lost 26-15 to the Kansas City Chiefs and now find themselves near the bottom of the league at No. 30.

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