opening-drive takeaway into a field goal, the 49ers’ confident defense believed that would be enough scoring for a win.
“When you see the offense go out there and score points on the first drive, that’s immediately what we think of is, ‘OK, they’re not going to score any more points,'” linebacker Dre Greenlaw said.
That bold proclamation proved prophetic when the Niners pitched their first shutout in three years, ending the NFL’s fourth-longest scoring streak ever with a 13-0 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
The performance that included two takeaways, two goal-line stands and the good fortune of a missed field goal is the latest evidence that this year’s unit could be on par or better than the defense that carried San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2019 season.
The Niners (7-4) have gone four straight games without allowing a point in the second half and lead the league in points allowed (15.7 per game), yards per play allowed (4.69 per play) and yards per game allowed (281.7).
“We’re on our way, for sure,” defensive end Nick Bosa said of exceeding the 2019 team. “We made it far that year and every single year, we want to get better. I think we have the guys who can do it definitely. Everybody who’s still here is a lot better since that year, so we definitely could be better.”
The defense was at its best when backed up to the goal line,
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