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NFL: 49ers balanced offense will pose significant challenges to Saints defense

Saints vs. 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Head coach Kyle Shanahan knows how difficult it is to keep all the impact players involved in the offensive unit of the San Francisco 49ers since the arrival of Christian McCaffrey.

Imagine, now, how difficult it can be to defend against a group that includes McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell at running backs, receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and versatile tight end George Kittle.

That’s the mission that awaits the New Orleans Saints (4-7) on Sunday as they visit the hot 49ers (6-4).

“They have impact players at the receiver position; they have impact players at the tight end position; they have impact players at the running back position,” noted Saints head coach Dennis Allen.

“It complicates the challenge when it comes to deciding which particular rival to contain. (…) It makes things difficult”, he admitted.

The 49ers struck that perfect balance last week in their win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Aiyuk and Kittle each caught two touchdown passes, McCaffrey had 106 yards from the line of scrimmage, Samuel crossed the goal line after a 39-yard sprint and Mitchell scorched the Cardinals’ defense with his second-half runs.

Shanahan knows that a scenario like this won’t happen every week, but he was happy to see it play out like this against Arizona.

“It’s like every player got grades of B-plus, A-minus, because everyone did really well. But if one player excels, there are not enough (opportunities) for another. It will take away opportunities for another,” Shanahan also noted.

“It was pretty ‘cool’ to have everyone contribute, receivers, tight end, running backs, and see how well it worked,” he admitted. .

Hermetic in the second half

The 49ers defensive unit hasn’t conceded a second-half point in its last three games, a feat the California outfit has achieved just one other time in the last 30 seasons. The 49ers had accomplished a similar feat on their way to the Super Bowl following the 2019 season.

Coming back from the locker room during that streak, the 49ers gave their rivals just 242 yards for an average of 3.1 yards per play.

“Three consecutive shutouts in the second half means winning football. And if we can keep that pace, with our offense, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” defensive end Nick Bosa said.

For their part, the Saints were without more than half a dozen important players in their victory against the Los Angeles Rams last week. But this week, cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), defensive ends Cameron Jordan (eye) and Marcus Davenport (calf), left tackle James Hurst (concussion), left guard Andrus Peat (triceps) and running back Mark Ingram (knee) all practiced at a limited pace. Thus, it is possible that some of these players will be available on Sunday.

The Saints also removed defensive back Bradley Roby’s name from the injured list and he was able to practice for the past few days.

According to Allen, these are players the Saints have relied on this season.

“When you can see these players back in practice, no matter how long they’ve been training, it’s a source of motivation for the team,” Allen concluded.

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