Saints defense clamps down on 49ers in fourth quarter

Here’s something you might never had thought you’d hear again:

“When it comes down to it, you want to put it on us — the defense,” Cam Jordan said amid the joy that was the Saints’ locker room following Sunday’s 23-20 victory against San Francisco. “We want to be the defense you can rely on — not the defense that’s looked on as a liability.”

That the Saints’ “D” definitely was, especially with the game on the line.

After 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin connected on a 14-yard completion on the first play of the period, the Saints allowed only 8 net yards and no first downs for the rest of the game.

And that number would have been negative had not Kaepernick scrambled for 16 yards on third-and-19 after Junior Galette’ sack on first down and Jordan’s near sack on second down that was nearly an intentional grounding safety, but wound up just being ruled an incompletion.

“I don’t want to reference that right now,” Jordan said. “But I might send the film to the league office.”

Safety or not, the Saints wound up allowing just 196 yards. With Dallas getting 193 last week, it marked the first time back-to-back opponents had failed to reach 200 yards since the 2000 season.

That likely means a defense that set a league record for yards allowed in 2012 is likely to move into the top five this week.

And it all came on a day when the offense had a hard time finding a consistent footing and San Francisco came up with turnovers via the offense (a Drew Brees interception), special teams (Lance Moore’s muffed punt) and even the defense (Corey White’s fumble through the end zone for a touchback after his interception and return to the Niners’ 3).

“I’m going work with the running backs all week,” White said. “That definitely’s never going to happen again.”

But even with the odds in their favor, the 49ers had only two touchdowns and no drive longer than 49 yards.

This was a against a team they’d put 375 yards and 31 points on last year en route to the Super Bowl and 407 yards and 36 points in their playoff game two seasons ago.

“They do a lot more on defense now,” said Kaepernick, who threw for only 127 yards while netting 25 on scrambles. “I mean that’s the biggest difference.

“They give you a lot of different looks now.”

The defense was particularly effective against the run.

Frank Gore, who came into the game averaging 78 yards per game wound up with 49, 24 of them on a run in the second quarter that was the visitors’ only play longer than 17 yards.

Against their bread-and-butter sweep play, the Saints permitted 9 yards on five attempts before the 49ers gave it up in the second half. There were seemingly five or six gold helmets converging on Gore every time.

“We knew they’d come out trying to establish the run and particularly that play,” said linebacker David Hawthorne, who had a team-high eight tackles. “So all week long we focused on everyone knowing their assignments and trusting each other — holding the edge and then letting the inside guys make plays.

“Then you go out and be more physical than they are, and it all comes together.”

That was especially true on the 49ers final possession when Galette took advantage of a seam created for by Akiem Hicks and Brodrick Bunkley for an unimpeded run at Kaepernick.

Gallette said his only fear what the officials might call a roughing-the-passer on him as they had done on Ahmad Brooks for his high hit on Brees earlier in the period that negated a fumble.

“The interior guys created pressure up the middle, and I had a good clean angle on him,” said Galette, who reached a career high in sacks (six) with the hit. “I was mindful about the penalty though,

“I just wanted to get him down no matter what it took.”

All-in-all, Jordan said, it was the kind of defensive performance no one should be surprised by any more.

“We started the year with a lot of young talent,” he said. “And now we’ve found our identity.”