49ers beat the Saints because of these key turning points

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (54) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (54) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 4

15. 13. 42. Final. 0

The 49ers had to rely on their defense in Week 12 to beat the Saints, but that’s not the only reason why the Niners pulled off the victory on Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan should probably think about treating his defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans, to a nice dinner after Ryans helped engineer a 13-0 shutout victory over the New Orleans Saints at Levi’s Stadium in Week 12.

NOLA’s defense did a particularly good job frustrating Shanahan’s offense, both in limiting the Niners’ rushing offense and in getting after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

And, if it wasn’t for San Francisco’s defense coming up with some big plays in some big moments, Week 12 could have turned into one of those losses like the ones the 49ers suffered earlier this season, losing to a clearly inferior opponent by missing opportunity after opportunity.

Ryans said no to that, though.

Plenty of the Niners’ defenders answered the call with key plays in key situations, but there were some specific moments that involve both sides of the ball, all of which ultimately made the biggest difference in San Francisco getting the win.

Here are the four biggest turning points from the game.

49ers vs. Saints turning point No. 4: Fred Warner forces a fumble

One of those turning points happened on the Saints’ opening drive, and they would have loved nothing more than to drive the length of the field and get into the end zone. With running back Alvin Kamara, that’s always a threat.

Except for linebacker Fred Warner and EDGE Samson Ebukam had other plans.

Long before New Orleans got into the red zone, Warner forced Kamara to fumble by punching the ball out, and Ebukam subsequently recovered it at the Saints’ 43-yard line.

Sure, the 49ers managed to get only a field goal off the recovered turnover. But it kickstarted the Niners being on the correct side of the turnover margin on Sunday, and that alone could be the reason why Shanahan and Co. remained victorious.