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New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers: Behind the stats and game tidbits

Some things you might not have seen in Sunday’s victory over the 49ers.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints improved to 4-4 after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 41-23 in Week 9. The team reached .500 for the first time in over a year, and it sets up a huge date with the Denver Broncos at home in Week 10. Here’s a few interesting stats and tidbits from Sunday’s win.

As always, let’s start with some Pro Football Focus grades.

Offense: Drew Brees (82.9), Max Unger (82.0), Michael Thomas (81.9), Mark Ingram (78.5), Zach Strief (74.1), Jahri Evans (73.2)

Defense: Jairus Byrd (79.2), Delvin Breaux (78.1), Cameron Jordan (77.5), Craig Robertson (76.7), Sterling Moore (75.4)

The Good Stuff (from Pro Football Focus)

  • After catching 5-of-8 targets, Michael Thomas remains the league's highest-graded rookie receiver and his overall grade (84.1) is the seventh-highest at the position. Through nine weeks Brees has a 116.9 rating throwing to Thomas, the sixth-best mark out of 42 qualifying receivers, while Brandin Cooks ranks first with a 123.0 passer rating on 58 targets.
  • Max Unger is the highest-graded pass blocker among centers and finished with another clean sheet there against the 49ers. He also fared well in the run game against linemen Glenn Dorsey and Quinton Dial, finishing as the team's highest-graded offensive player apart from Brees.
  • Mark Ingram finished with his best overall grade of the year following a 158 yard performance. He played 33 snaps, up from just 6 against Seattle, while Tim Hightower saw the field on 36 plays.
  • Brees earned the highest grade of the game, in part due to his downfield accuracy; he finished 8-for-12 on passes targeted more than 10 yards downfield. Brees also did notably well against the 49ers' blitz, completing 90.9 percent of his passes on those plays with a 15.1 YPA.
  • Terron Armstead only managed 16 snaps, but graded well in both facets during that span. Andrus Peat played the remaining 70 snaps on the outside, finishing above average overall (72.9), although his three pressures surrendered were a team-high.
  • Sheldon Rankins played 38 snaps in his regular-season debut with decent results (73.2 overall). As a pass rusher, he graded slightly below-average with wins on two of his 30 pass rushes (one pressure), but his play in run defense was positive, albeit in a limited sample (eight snaps).
  • Solid return for Delvin Breaux, who played on 43 of 60 snaps in his first action since Week 1. After switching sides in Week 1, he spent the entire game aligned on the defensive right side with the bulk of his coverage snaps coming against WR Quinton Patton. His only target fell incomplete.

Team Tidbits

  • The last time the Saints were .500 was Nov. 1, 2015 when they beat the New York Giants 52-49. Coincidentally, the Saints were 4-4. They’re now second place in the NFC South.
  • Drew Brees finished with his 55th career game with at least 300 passing yards. As you’d imagine, that’s an NFL record. Brees also had his 30th career game with 300 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and go without an interception. He’s the only player to do that in NFL history.Brees also posted his fourth-straight game with a 100.0 passer rating or better.
  • Mark Ingram’s 7th career 100-yard rushing performance tied him with Chuck Muncie for fifth-most in franchise history. Ingram’s career-long 75-yard rushing touchdown was good for fourth-longest in Saints history, and it was the longest since Deuce McAllister’s 76-yarder against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003. Ingram’s also third all-time in franchise history with his 28th rushing touchdown.
  • Sean Payton improved to 6-1 against the 49ers in regular season play. His team’s 248-yard rushing performance was good for 10th-highest in franchise history and the most since Nov. 4, 1990 against the Cincinnati Bengals (249).
  • Craig Robertson’s interception paired with Nathan Stupar’s pick last week against the Seahawks marked the first time linebackers had back-to-back interceptions in nearly five years (2011 - Scott Shanle against the Falcons, Will Herring against the Giants).