‘Third and Jauan' has nice ring to Jennings, 49ers' offense

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SANTA CLARA — Jauan Jennings is the 49ers’ fifth-leading receiver this season.

But when it comes to third downs, he has turned into Jimmy Garoppolo’s No. 1 option.

“I like the term, ‘Third and Jauan,’ ” Jennings said after he played a pivotal role in the 49ers’ 13-0 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

Jennings kept drives alive with three third-down receptions. The team also benefited from an unnecessary roughness penalty after one of those catches when Saints veteran cornerback Chris Harris retaliated against Jennings’ aggressive playing style.

Jennings also accounted for the only touchdown on the day when he maintained his concentration in the back of the end zone to grab a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo that was deflected by Saints defensive back Tyrann Mathieu for a 5-yard score before halftime.

“Jauan's clutch for us, and he kept us out on the field a couple times and got us those points,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.

Jennings has just 24 receptions for 269 yards and one touchdown on the season. But 13 of his catches have enabled the 49ers to move the chains on third downs. He leads the 49ers and is tied for eighth among pass-catchers in the NFL at converting third downs.

The secret to Jennings’ success is not such a secret, after all. He might be the 49ers’ best receiver when it comes to defeating man coverage.

“A lot of teams like to play man to man on third downs and that's where that's like one of my strengths,” he said. “I beat man to man.”

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That area in which Jennings excels provides Garoppolo with a reliable target in big situations.

“It's hard to play man against Jauan,” Garoppolo said. “He's big, he's quick. He's physical. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's hard to bring down.

“(I’m) not trying to pump him up too much there. But, no, he does a lot of good things. He separates at the top of his routes. And as a quarterback, it's easy to read his body language.”

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