The New Orleans Saints in several ways played the kind of game they needed to play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. They just didn't play it quite well enough in a 13-0 loss at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., dropping their record to 4-8.
But several players had noteworthy performances nonetheless.
OFFENSE: Undrafted rookie Rashid Shaheed continues to impress. He caught two passes for 53 yards and his speed is such a threat – defenders give him plenty of room already, but as his route-running rounds into form he'll become even more of an asset for the offense. His second catch, a little in-and-out route that he turned into an 18-yard gain, was an example of what happens when a player with his kind of speed can get a defender moving in one direction, and look like he doesn't have a prayer once Shaheed changes direction.
DEFENSE: Linebacker Kaden Elliss (a career-high 14 tackles) easily could have been the choice here. But cornerback Paulson Adebo probably played his best game of the season, against one of the most versatile offenses in the league. Adebo had two pass breakups and six tackles – his third-quarter PBU on a deep pass attempt for Brandon Aiyuk likely prevented a touchdown. More and more, he's looking like the player who was the best defensive player on the field during training camp as he shakes off the ankle injury that impeded him earlier this season. Also worth mentioning: Linebacker Zack Baun (a quarterback hit, tackle for loss and four tackles), who stood out on several solo tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Blake Gillikin quietly had a really nice day punting, and has for the last several games. He punted four times for a 43.8-yard average, with two downed inside the 20, one of them inside the 10. Gillikin did his job in terms of pinning the 49ers deep in their territory, and on his touchback he got a decent bounce outside the goal line, but receiver Kevin White couldn't get enough muscle on the toss-back inside the end zone. Gillikin put the defense in position to swing field position with a stop, and that's more important than a booming distance.