“He’s such a talented quarterback,” said running back Christian McCaffrey, who caught seven passes from Garoppolo for 67 yards and ran for 39 yards on seven carries against the Cardinals. “He’s a great leader, super smart, can make any pitch and just a great guy to be around. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to pick his brains and work with him.”
The 49ers’ rise has come since acquiring McCaffrey in a trade with Carolina to join an offense that already included Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
San Francisco leads the NFL in total defense (283.9 yards per game) and is fourth in scoring defense (17.3 points per game). The 49ers allow the fewest rushing yards per game (81.1) and the fewest rushing yards (3.4).
“When you look at the tape, you rarely see one person in the picture,” said coach Kyle Shanahan. “Almost every play has 11 people on screen. They play well together.”
The Saints offense has been inconsistent this season. Starting quarterback James Winston was injured in a season-opening win in Atlanta, then battled through losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina before Dalton took over.
New Orleans (4-7) won only two of Dalton’s first seven starts and head coach Dennis Allen considered returning to Winston after Dalton threw two interceptions in a 20-10 loss in Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
But Allen stayed with Dalton, who put in one of the most efficient performances of his career last week. Dalton completed 21 of 25 passes for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 27–20 home win against the Los Angeles Rams.
“The way we played last week we were able to get the ball out of my hand quickly and guys opened up at the right time,” said Dalton. “From that point of view, we did very well. It’s just about playing in rhythm and on time.”
The Saints have yet to win consecutive games this season, but they rank third in the NFC South, just two games behind Tampa Bay in first place in the losing column.
New Orleans has seen an inordinate number of key players sidelined by injury this season, but Wednesday’s participation report showed progress.
Five sidelined starters returned on a limited basis: cornerback Marshon Lattimore (belly), defensive ends Cameron Jordan (eye) and Marcus Davenport (calf), tackle James Hurst (concussion), and guard Andrus Peat (triceps).
“When you get guys back out, everybody gets a ride,” Allen said.
The 49ers only had four players on their injury report, including Samuels (hamstring), who was limited.