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Film Study: Saints run defense puts in another stellar showing

Gonna keep repeating myself until it fails to ring true

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

On what was an overall great day for the New Orleans Saints defense when they held Nick Mullens and the San Francisco 49ers to just 13 points (with 7 of them coming on the opening drive of the game), it looks even better when analyzing the Saints run defense, which gave up 49 total yards on 25 carries to, an albeit depleted, 49ers team. The 49 yards marks the third time in four games that Saints opponents have been held to under 50 yards rushing, and SF’s 2.0 yards per carry marks the second-lowest YPC that the Saints defense this season (with the lowest being Tampa Bay’s hilarious 1.6 ypc the week prior).

For this film study, we’ll take a special look at the five carries that the Saints managed to wrap up in the backfield. Starting with San Francisco’s first run of the game.

Folks, it might be a good idea to block Marcus Davenport. With tight end Ross Dwelley assigned to block backside, RT Mike McGlinchey needs to do something to keep Davenport in check and pass Trey Hendrickson onto his fellow offensive lineman. Instead, McGlinchey fully engages with Hendrickson and allows Davenport to just ruin McKinnon’s day before it barely begins.

Oh my lord in heaven the Saints stopped a run to the outside.

The 49ers try to get the ball in Brandon Aiyuk’s hands to let him make magic (good idea, tbf), only to have it go horribly wrong when fullback extraordinaire Kyle Juszczyk (there are more z’s in his last name than vowels) fails to get to over to block wide receiver fightee Chauncey C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson in time. CCJCDGJ isn’t the one to make the tackle, but he slows Aiyuk down before he can get up to speed and it allows Marcus Williams (he made a tackle!) and Malcolm Roach to wrap up Aiyuk for a loss of eight yards.

Hey there Kwon Alexander! On what proved to be an important goal line stand for the Saints defense, Malcolm Roach plows Laken Tomlinson directly into the backfield right into the path of Jerick McKinnon, forcing him to cut back right into the path of a charging Kwon Alexander. Without Roach blowing this play up, McKinnon likely finds himself at least getting back to the line of scrimmage, and instead he loses two yards on this play, leading to a 3rd and goal from the 5 where Nick Mullens is promptly sacked by Demario Davis and SF is forced to settle for a field goal to extend their lead to 10-0.

This is just reaffirming that Marcus Davenport is better than you think he is. Destorying this run from the backside takes some talent, and while he’s helped by Ross Dwelley not doing the greatest job of blocking, he charges right at McKinnon to take him down for a loss.

An unspoken MVP for the Saints this season has been defensive tackle David Onyemata, always seeming to show up whenever I write about the Saints run defense. In a tied 10-10 game just after the two-minute warning in the first half, Onyemata gets into the Niners backfield with ease on a crucial 4th-and-1 rushing attempt. Onyemata makes the tackle for a loss of 2, Drew Brees gets the ball back and delivers a 2-minute drill to lead the Saints to a touchdown and the lead with five broken ribs and a punctured lung(!!!!) because of course he does.

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