Dec 4, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) calls out the play against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Purdy hopes to steady 49ers against Tom Brady’s Bucs

The quarterback regarded as the greatest of all time will square off against “Mr. Irrelevant” on Sunday when Tom Brady and Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit rookie Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif.

On one hand is Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion, three-time NFL MVP and 15-time Pro Bowl selection.

On the other is Purdy, who will make his first career start on Sunday. At the moment, Purdy’s claim to fame is that he was the 262nd pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Brady threw two late touchdowns to help Tampa Bay rally from a 13-point deficit to post a 17-16 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday. The 45-year-old has thrown two scoring strikes in three straight games for the Buccaneers (6-6), who have won three of their last four contests to rest atop a generously mediocre NFC South.

As for the 49ers (8-4), they find themselves atop the NFC West after winning in five in a row. That fifth victory was costly, however, as the 22-year-old Purdy was ushered in to replace an injured Jimmy Garoppolo (broken foot) in San Francisco’s 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

By all accounts, Purdy acquitted himself well on Sunday by completing 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Purdy had already become the first Mr. Irrelevant ever to complete a forward pass in the NFL back in Week 7 mop-up duty against Kansas City, and now he’s the only one with a touchdown pass.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday that the team isn’t interested in making wholesale changes to its offensive approach with Purdy under center this weekend.

“We’re trying not to make it a drastic change,” Shanahan said. “I mean, they (Garoppolo and Purdy) have similar skill sets. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Brock. We’ve seen him in practice; the players have, we have, and that’s why we were confident in him. But he hasn’t played a ton of football, so there is some unknown out there, but we know he’s got the ability to do it, we know he’s got the mentality to do it.”

Also, Purdy isn’t out there by himself. And Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles is well aware of that fact.

“He’s talented to begin with or he wouldn’t be in this league,” Bowles said. “But they have a lot of talented players around him and he’s going up against a great defense every day in practice. He’s not going to be nervous, he’s going to play his game — we just have to play ours.

“It’s not about the quarterback, it’s about all 11 guys on the offense.”

49ers running back Christian McCaffrey rolled up 146 scrimmage yards (80 receiving, 66 rushing) last week against Miami. He is no stranger to the Buccaneers after his time with the NFC South-rival Carolina Panthers.

McCaffrey (knee irritation) joined versatile Deebo Samuel (quad), defensive lineman Arik Armstead (foot) and offensive lineman Spencer Burford (ankle) as limited in Wednesday’s practice. NFC Defensive Player of the Week Nick Bosa (hamstring), joined Garoppolo, defensive back Tarvarius Moore (knee), defensive lineman Hassan Ridgeway (pectoral) and offensive tackle Trent Williams (veteran day) in sitting out the session.

With Bosa in tow, the 49ers lead the NFL in total defense (283.9 yards allowed per game), rush defense (75.6) and fewest points allowed (15.8).

“We know what they are — the No. 1 defense in the league and they’re going to challenge us, come up on us, and we’re just ready to accept the challenge,” Buccaneers rookie running back Rachaad White said. “… We know what they bring, and they’ve got a lot of good, great guys up front. They have four pass rushers plus more, they come off the bench, substitute, I mean, the backers are in the box and then back in.

“You know what they can do, they compete, high-effort team, and they’re going to keep coming, so we’ve got to keep pressure.”

Tampa Bay’s defense is no slouch either. The Buccaneers rank eighth in the NFL in total defense (313.8), fifth in scoring defense (18.3) and fourth in sacks (38).

Tampa Bay safeties Mike Edwards (hamstring) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle/knee) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quadriceps) and nose tackle Vita Vea (foot/shoulder) were limited in the session.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Jimmy Garoppolo won’t need surgery, could return in 7-8 weeks

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will not require surgery on his broken left foot after all, ESPN reported, making the veteran a possibility to return for the playoffs.

Because Garoppolo’s injury was not a Lisfranc fracture, doctors reportedly determined that he was able to avoid surgery and follow a course of rehab to return in seven to eight weeks.

That timetable would allow for Garoppolo to get back on the field in late January and a portion of the NFL playoffs. The divisional playoffs are scheduled for Jan. 21-22 and conference championships are Jan. 29. Super Bowl LVII will be played Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz., 10 weeks after Garoppolo was injured.

In the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the visiting Miami Dolphins, Garoppolo was sacked by a pair of Miami defensive players. The knee of Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips appeared to land on the side of Garoppolo’s left foot.

Garoppolo was carted from the sideline to the locker room. After the game, coach Kyle Shanahan said the diagnosis was a broken foot that would require season-ending surgery.

“Just hearing it is pretty crushing,” coach Kyle Shanahan said at the time. “We know what Jimmy’s been through, how hard he’s worked at this.”

For now, the Niners are turning to rookie seventh-round selection Brock Purdy, who entered for Garoppolo and led San Francisco to a 33-17 win over Miami. It was Purdy’s first extended NFL action.

Trey Lance was lost for the season to an ankle injury in the second game of the season. Shanahan ruled out the possibility of Lance being activated sooner than expected.

Baker Mayfield was seen as a short-term option for the 49ers after the Carolina Panthers waived him on Monday, but the NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams claimed Mayfield on Tuesday to address their own quarterback concerns. ESPN reported that the Niners did not put in a waiver claim for Mayfield.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) throws against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

Rams claim QB Baker Mayfield off waivers

Former No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield is getting another chance to save his career, this time with the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Los Angeles Rams claimed Mayfield off waivers Tuesday, a day after the Carolina Panthers cut ties with the beleaguered quarterback just five months into their marriage.

The Rams (3-9) lost their sixth straight game Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks, with John Wolford starting under center. Matthew Stafford, who had been diagnosed with a concussion and neck injury a few weeks prior, was revealed after the game to have a spinal contusion that likely ended his season.

The Rams had Wolford and Bryce Perkins as the other quarterbacks on their roster, though Wolford is dealing with a neck injury and was listed as did not participate on Monday’s estimated practice report.

Though their chances of making a late run for a wild-card berth are close to zero, the Rams claimed the 27-year-old Mayfield for the closing stretch and inherited the $1.35 million left on his contract.

The Rams’ move also potentially blocked a quarterback-needy NFC West rival, the division-leading San Francisco 49ers, from being able to claim Mayfield because the Rams were ahead of the 49ers in the waiver order. The 49ers have lost quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to injuries — though reports came out Tuesday that Garoppolo will not need foot surgery as originally expected and could be back for the playoffs.

ESPN reported that the 49ers did not put in a claim for Mayfield.

Mayfield started six of the seven games he played in this season, completing 57.8 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns against six interceptions.

He was in his first season in Carolina, which acquired him from the Cleveland Browns in July for a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick. The pick will remain a fifth-rounder since Mayfield didn’t play 70 percent of the team’s snaps at QB.

The Panthers paid $5 million of Mayfield’s fifth-year option while the Browns paid about $10.5 million. Mayfield agreed to cut the remaining $3 million-plus off his fifth-year salary to facilitate the trade.

Mayfield is 30-35 as a starting QB in 65 starts as an NFL quarterback since being selected No. 1 by the Browns in 2018. He’s thrown for 98 TDs and 62 INTs for his career.

ESPN reported that Mayfield is en route to Los Angeles and could play as soon as Thursday, when the Rams visit the Las Vegas Raiders.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) prepares for the snap against the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Super Bowl odds skyrocket minus Jimmy Garoppolo

History doesn’t look kindly upon third-string rookie quarterbacks making strong Super Bowl runs.

Neither do sportsbooks.

The San Francisco 49ers’ odds of winning the Super Bowl skyrocketed after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending foot injury on Sunday. With rookie seventh-rounder Brock Purdy now at the helm of the offense, the 49ers saw their odds of winning the title nearly double at most major sportsbooks.

San Francisco went from +750 at BetRivers to +1200, a distant fifth behind Buffalo (+375), Kansas City (+460), Philadelphia (+500) and Dallas (+700). The 49ers shifted from +600 to +1100 at BetMGM, where they are tied for the fifth-shortest odds with Cincinnati.

Interestingly, they are still ahead of the 9-2 Minnesota Vikings, who are +1400 at BetRivers and +1600 at BetMGM despite having a firm grip on the NFC North title and still being in the hunt for a first-round bye.

The 49ers are now the third favorites to win the NFC title at both sportsbooks. Their conference championship odds lengthened from +300 to +500 at BetRivers and from +230 to +450 at BetMGM. That puts them behind Philadelphia (+200, +185) and Dallas (+300 at both).

Purdy helped San Francisco (8-4) maintain a one-game lead in the NFC West with Sunday’s victory over Miami. The 49ers are still -375 to claim the division title at BetRivers, although they entered Sunday at -715.

Purdy steps into a critical three-game stretch for the 49ers, who will host Tampa Bay (5-6) on Sunday before a Week 15 Thursday night game at division rival Seattle (7-5) and a Christmas Eve visit from Washington (7-5-1).

The Buccaneers are atop the woeful NFC South while the Seahawks no doubt see the door cracked to stay in the NFC West race while also competing with the Commanders, among others, in the wild card picture.

Purdy, dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” as the final pick in the NFL draft, stepped in for the injured Garoppolo to throw for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns against an interception in the 33-17 victory over Miami.

He’ll be extremely relevant moving forward for the 49ers, who will support the rookie with the league’s top-ranked defense.

After intercepting Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa twice and holding former 49ers running back Raheem Mostert to 30 yards on the ground, San Francisco is allowing a league-low 283.9 yards per game.

Miami’s fourth-quarter touchdown on Sunday represents the only second-half points the 49ers have allowed in their past five games.

“We’re going to be ready to do our best to overcome this,” Shanahan said about Garoppolo’s injury after the game. “We had a strong team, guys who love football. We’ve got to make sure to really ride that high the rest of the year and hope it can keep making us better.”

Purdy’s first NFL start will come against future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, who was drafted in the sixth round by New England in 2000.

Purdy was four months old at the time. He turned two years old shortly before Brady led the Patriots to their first title in Super Bowl XXXVI.

“I’ve always had confidence and belief in myself that I could play at this level,” Purdy said. “To get in, play and start next week, it’s something I’ve always looked forward to. I’ve honestly told myself that it’s going to happen, so, here we are.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) throws the ball against Miami Dolphins defensive end Zach Sieler (92) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Purdy subs in for injured Jimmy G to lead 49ers over Dolphins

Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy rode to the rescue in his first extended NFL action, passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns to push the San Francisco 49ers’ winning streak to five games with a 33-17 victory Sunday over the visiting Miami Dolphins at Santa Clara, Calif.

Purdy, who was 25 of 37 with an interception, took over in the first quarter for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo and delivered a touchdown on his first drive. The 49ers’ defense added three interceptions and a fumble return for a score by Dre Greenlaw, all in the second half.

Christian McCaffrey caught eight passes for 80 yards and a touchdown for the 49ers (8-4), while also rushing for 66 yards on 17 carries. McCaffrey’s 3-yard TD reception from Purdy with four seconds remaining in the first half broke a 10-10 tie.

Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa was 18-of-33 passing for 295 yards and two touchdowns, but his two third-quarter interceptions were his first in a span of six games.

Tyreek Hill had nine receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown for the Dolphins (8-4), who saw their five-game winning streak come to an end. Miami entered with an average of 34.7 points per game in three November contests.

Tagovailoa had the Dolphins’ offense on track early, hitting Trent Sherfield with a short pass on the first play of the game that turned into a 75-yard touchdown scamper.

Garoppolo pushed the 49ers inside the Miami 20-yard line on San Francisco’s first possession, but the knee of Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips landed on the side of the quarterback’s left foot during a sack. Garoppolo had to be carted from the sideline to the locker room.

The 49ers got a 47-yard Robbie Gould field goal one play after Garoppolo’s injury, with Purdy immediately leading San Francisco on a nine-play, 54-yard scoring drive during his first series. Purdy, who had nine pass attempts prior to Sunday, threw a 3-yard TD pass to Kyle Juszczyk for his first NFL score.

The 49ers turned third-quarter interceptions from Jimmie Ward and Deommodore Lenoir into a pair of Gould field goals for a 23-10 lead. Hill grabbed his 45-yard TD reception with 14:28 remaining to pull the Dolphins within 23-17.

Gould kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2:03 left for a 26-17 lead. On Miami’s first play after the Gould field goal, Nick Bosa’s third sack caused Tagovailoa to fumble and Greenlaw returned it 23 yards for a score.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) is sacked by Miami Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips (15) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle) carted off, out for game vs. Dolphins

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was carted to the locker room after the team’s opening drive Sunday with an ankle injury.

Garoppolo was initially listed as questionable to return, but the Niners downgraded him to out during the second quarter.

The injury adds to the quarterback concerns for the 49ers, who lost Trey Lance for the season during San Francisco’s second game. Lance subsequently underwent surgery for his own ankle injury.

Garoppolo was 2-of-4 passing for 56 yards on San Francisco’s opening drive when he was sacked by a pair of Miami defensive players. The knee of Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips appeared to land on the side of Garoppolo’s left foot.

On the following play, the 49ers’ Robbie Gould kicked a 47-yard field goal as San Francisco answered an opening-drive touchdown by the Dolphins.

The 49ers turned to rookie Brock Purdy at quarterback and the seventh-round pick out of Iowa State in April’s NFL draft led San Francisco to a TD on his first drive. Purdy hit Kyle Juszczyk on a 3-yard TD pass to cap the 54-yard drive, for his first career scoring pass.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) celebrates the touchdown of running back quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1)  during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel returns to face 49ers with in-form offense

A hot offense will get the ultimate test when it meets one of the best defenses in the NFL as the visiting Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers continue their playoff pushes Sunday at Santa Clara, Calif.

The Dolphins (8-3) averaged 34.7 points per game in November, up from their season average of 25.6, as Tua Tagovailoa has emerged from early-season concussion issues with a clear head and precise play.

Miami is riding a five-game winning streak, with a revealing run of three consecutive road games ahead.

The 49ers (7-4) have emerged from their 3-4 start with a vengeance, riding a defense that has allowed an NFL-low 281.7 yards per game while also leading the league with 15.7 points allowed per contest. San Francisco is the only NFL team allowing fewer than 300 yards per game.

That 49ers’ defense not only has to go up against Miami wide receivers Tyreek Hill (87 receptions) and Jaylen Waddle (56 receptions), the game also will be a matchup of Miami head coach Mike McDaniel against his former team. McDaniel was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator last season.

“(McDaniel) is doing a great job with his personnel,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Those two receivers, the speed they have and the good football players they are … and the way that quarterback is playing — Tua is playing at an extremely high level and has been doing it since the preseason.”

While the defense is the 49ers’ engine, the offense still is looking for consistency.

Even with the midseason addition of running back Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco managed just 96 rushing yards and 3.3 yards per carry last Sunday in a victory over the New Orleans Saints, their fourth straight win. The defense made sure it was enough by pitching a 13-0 shutout.

McCaffrey (knee) did not practice Wednesday, while receiver Deebo Samuel (quad) was limited. Shanahan is hopeful McCaffrey will play Sunday, adding that both injuries are residual soreness from the New Orleans game.

The Dolphins enter after a 30-15 home victory over the Houston Texans in which Tagovailoa threw for 299 yards and a touchdown. Hill and Waddle combined for 11 catches and 170 yards. Miami’s defense held Houston to 210 yards, including 36 on the ground.

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been a key component in holding Dolphins opponents to 109.5 yards rushing per game, 10th best in the NFL.

“This is just great football between two teams that haven’t lost in a minute,” McDaniel said. “Generally, when you haven’t lost in a minute, you don’t want to feel that feeling, so there’s a lot of incentive on both sides to make sure that they end up on top.”

After Sunday’s game, the Dolphins will remain in California in advance of a road game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 11. In a sign of how much attention Miami’s play is starting to earn, that Dolphins-Chargers game was flexed into primetime on “Sunday Night Football.”

“I think you acknowledge it and that’s something that the players should be proud of,” McDaniel said of the added national-TV game. “That means the players have decided that they want to make the most out of all the talent that they have and they’re committed to doing so and it’s a credit to them for sure.”

Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert is expected to be back this week after missing one game due to a knee injury. Mostert played the previous five-plus seasons with the 49ers.

Miami players not participating in practice Wednesday included tackle Terron Armstead (toe/pectoral), running back Myles Gaskin (shoulder/ankle) and offensive lineman Austin Jackson (ankle).

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (25) runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers lose RB Elijah Mitchell (knee), sign CB Janoris Jenkins to practice squad

San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell will miss six to eight weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Monday.

Mitchell was injured during Sunday’s 13-0 victory over the New Orleans Saints. It is Mitchell’s second knee injury of the season.

“He’s pretty disappointed. Everyone knows how good Elijah’s been, how hard he’s worked to get back from his last one and how good he’s been playing since he came back,” Shanahan said during a conference call with reporters. “To be right back there, I know he was real down on it. He’s had some real bad luck. He got rolled up on and it was a bad position for him to be in.”

Mitchell sprained his right MCL in Week 1 and missed the following seven games before returning in Week 10 against the Los Angeles Chargers. He has 224 yards on 40 carries in four games and sports a healthy 5.6 average.

Mitchell had 963 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games (10 starts) as a rookie last season.

Also, running back Christian McCaffrey, who was acquired while Mitchell was injured, came out of the New Orleans game with knee irritation and will be watched closely this week.

The 49ers also announced that they have signed veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins to the practice squad.

Jenkins, 34, has played in 142 NFL regular-season games (138 starts). He has intercepted 27 passes, returning eight of them for touchdowns, and been credited with 124 passes defensed. Now that he is on a roster, he is the NFL’s active leader in pick-sixes.

Jenkins also has returned a fumble for a touchdown while racking up 575 tackles, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Last season, Jenkins had 54 tackles and one interception in 14 games (13 starts) for the Tennessee Titans. He was released in March.

Jenkins also had played for the then-St. Louis Rams (2012-15), New York Giants (2016-19) and New Orleans Saints (2019-20). He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2016 for the Giants.

–Field Level Media

November 27, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) passes the football against the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Niners hand Saints first shutout loss since 2001

Jimmy Garoppolo passed to Jauan Jennings for the game’s only touchdown and the host San Francisco 49ers handed the New Orleans Saints their first shutout in more than 20 years 13-0 on Sunday.

Robbie Gould added two field goals and Garoppolo completed 26 of 37 passes for 222 yards as the 49ers (7-4) won their fourth consecutive game.

Andy Dalton completed 18 of 29 for 204 yards, but Alvin Kamara had just 50 yards from scrimmage and lost two crucial fumbles for the Saints (4-8).

New Orleans reached a first-and-goal twice in the fourth quarter, trying to avoid the shutout and pull within one score, but the 49ers defense stood strong both times.

It was the first time New Orleans failed to score in 333 games, dating to Week 17 of the 2001 season against the 49ers.

On the first possession of the second half, the 49ers drove 47 yards to Gould’s 46-yard field goal that increased their lead to 13-0.

New Orleans drove to the San Francisco 35, looking for the first second-half points against the 49ers in four games. The Saints lined up to go for fourth and 5, but committed a false start and Wil Lutz missed a 48-yard field goal.

That enabled the 49ers to take the 13-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

New Orleans reached the San Francisco 6, but Kamara fumbled after a pass reception and Dre Greenlaw recovered for the 49ers at the 1.

The Saints reached the 4 on their next possession, but on fourth down, Dalton was sacked by Joey Bosa.

The first possession of the game ended when Kamara fumbled and Samson Ebukam recovered for the 49ers at the Saints 43. Eleven plays later, Gould kicked a 24-yard field goal and the 3-0 lead held up through the end of the first quarter.

The 49ers defense forced a three-and-out and the offense took over at their 43 after the punt. Nine players later, Garoppolo threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jennings with 13 seconds left, increasing the lead to 10-0 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2022; Mexico City, MEXICO; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates his touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the second quarter at Estadio Azteca. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Saints getting healthy but face tough battle with surging 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback when the season began.

Andy Dalton wasn’t the New Orleans Saints starting quarterback when the season began.

But both quarterbacks have settled into starting positions as the 49ers and Saints prepare to meet Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

Garoppolo was backing up Trey Lance until Lance suffered a season-ending fractured ankle in the second game of the season. Garoppolo has started the past eight games and helped lead San Francisco (6-4) to three consecutive victories and a tie with Seattle atop the NFC West.

He completed 20 of 29 passes for 228 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-10 victory over Arizona on Monday night in Mexico City.

“He is 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 is a great leader, super smart, can make any throw and just a great guy to be around. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to pick his brain and mesh with him.”

The 49ers’ surge has come since the acquisition of McCaffrey in a trade with Carolina to join an offense that already featured 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 are allowing the fewest rushing yards per game (81.1) and the fewest yards per rush (3.4).

“It’s very rare when you look at the tape that there’s one person in the screen,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s almost every play that there are 11 people on the screen. They’re playing well together.”

The Saints offense has been inconsistent this season. Starting quarterback Jameis Winston was injured during a season-opening win at Atlanta, then battled through losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina before Dalton took over.

New Orleans (4-7) won just 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 at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

But Allen stayed with Dalton, who had 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 victory 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 were getting open at the right time,” Dalton said. “We executed really well from that standpoint. It just comes down to playing in rhythm and playing on time.”

The Saints have yet to win consecutive games this season, but they sit in third place in the NFC South, just two games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the loss column.

New Orleans has seen an inordinate number of key players sidelined by injury this season, but the participation report Wednesday showed progress.

Five starters who had been sidelined returned on a limited basis — cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), defensive ends Cameron Jordan (eye) and Marcus Davenport (calf), tackle James Hurst (concussion) and guard Andrus Peat (triceps).

“When you get guys back out there, everybody gets a lift,” Allen said.

The 49ers had just four players on their injury report, including Samuels (hamstring), who was limited.

–Field Level Media