SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco 49ers made a point of using their rushing attack, and even Jerry Rice found room to run.
Getting all their touchdowns on the ground, the 49ers rushed past New Orleans, 27-11, Sunday to remain unbeaten in six season-opening matchups against the Saints.
San Francisco won the previous five by a total of 11 points, but this time it wasn't close.
Tommy Vardell made his first San Francisco carry a touchdown, Derek Loville scored on a four-yard run and Rice added a two-yard run. Steve Young, who suffered a lacerated chin in a third-quarter hit by Renaldo Turnbull, ran for 52 yards to go with 199 yards passing.
"We attacked them up and down the field," Loville said. "We're only going to get better. Once we settled in, we executed. We got the job done."
San Francisco's defense, top-ranked in the league last season, dominated the Saints for most of the game. New Orleans didn't get into the end zone until late, when Haywood Jeffries caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Jim Everett.
"It's obvious we had some problems in the first half," New Orleans Coach Jim Mora said. "We had some coverage problems. We had some penalties. We had very, very difficult field position throughout the game. The 49ers are awful good, but we helped them out a lot in the first half."
Tim McDonald had an interception and New Orleans' last possession ended when Jeffries fumbled after a catch, with Tryonne Drakeford recovering.
"We didn't let them control the ball and I think that took them out of their game plan," McDonald said.
With former coach Bill Walsh watching from the 49ers' administrative booth, apart from the coaches' box, where coordinator Marc Trestman called the plays, San Francisco was able to set up the run with the pass early.
"Whatever it takes to win a football game," Loville said. "I think we ran the ball well, but we've still got work to do. We've got to close out teams in the third and fourth quarters. New Orleans is a good team, but we kind of sputtered a little bit."
Added Rice, "After coming out so strong, we can't have any letdowns. We've got to be able to put a team away. I like to go for the jugular."
Thanks to a 17-yard completion from Young to Rice, Vardell gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead with a one-yard run. Rice then set up the next score with a 38-yard reception before scoring on a two-yard reverse, the 157th touchdown for the NFL career leader.
"San Francisco came at us and attacked us in a coverage that we didn't expect," New Orleans safety Anthony Newman said.
Loville's scoring run late in the second period, coupled with Jeff Wilkins' 29-yard field goal earlier in the quarter, put San Francisco up, 24-0, at halftime.