Sure, they’re battered and they’ve lost two in a row. The number one receiver, the number one tight end, and the starting fullback were all out. One of the mainstays on the offensive line was suspended this week and another had been hurt last week. No team had been able to throw for more than 200 yards on the 49ers this season. The two players responsible for four touchdowns last week were held to only 39 total yards. But none of that made any difference as New Orleans stayed perfect with their second win at home this season.
The Saints started the first quarter with the ball but were only able to get it to midfield. The 49ers then drove down to score three points on a 47-yard field goal, their first of three in the game. The second possession for New Orleans ended when Brees threw his fourth interception of the season. However, the defense held tough, not allowing San Francisco to make a first down.
Then the team seemed to get life from both the defense and the insertion of RB Deuce McAllister in the offense. Rookie DT Sedrick Ellis got his first sack of his career, the second of the day for the team. DE Will Smith’s sacked JT O’Sullivan again on the next play which forced a fumble that was recovered by LB Jonathan Vilma. In the first half, New Orleans kept San Francisco from converting their third downs as they went 0 for 5 and out of the end zone. The defense ended the day with six sacks, two by DE Charles Grant, and two interceptions.
New Orleans QB Drew Brees once again showed that he is the best quarterback in the league, finishing the day with 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. Before today, no team had thrown for more than 200 yards on the 49ers. Brees had 195 yards at halftime. Brees’ best throw was arguably an 81-yard pass to WR Devery Henderson in the fourth quarter that looked like it would be a touchdown but he was tackled two yards shy of the end zone.
The first touchdown was to WR Lance Moore, his first of two for the day, on a 5-yard pass with about nine and a half minutes left in the second quarter. The drive had been set up by Jonathan Vilma’s fumble recovery and took 6 plays in about three minutes. New Orleans scored again on their next possession on a 10 play drive that ended with 33-yard touchdown catch by Lance Moore who finished with 101 yards receiving for the day.
With less than two minutes to go in the first half, Brees threw a deep pass to WR Robert Meachem, a 47-yard catch on a drive that took less than a minute. The score going into halftime was the 49ers 6 and the Saints 21.
One of the best stories of the game was the return of RB Deuce McAlister to the Saints’ offense. McAlister had 35 yards in the first half on 8 carries and finished the day with 83 yards (73 rushing on 20 attempts) and a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. McAlister had only run the ball twice this season for a total of 10 yards and Coach Payton had been criticized this week for not playing him in the game against the Denver Broncos when the team needed one yard on a couple of occasions and came up short.
As the second half began, the San Francisco offense showed life, converting a third down and driving all the way to the New Orleans 15 yard line. The defense held again with a sack and forcing San Francisco to kick a 38-yard field goal. The 49ers drove three more times down the field and into the red zone during the second half. The first two times, O’Sullivan was intercepted in the end zone, once by S Kevin Kaesviharn and once by CB Tracy Porter.
K Martin Gramatica made all four extra points and a 31-yard field goal, recouping some of the goodwill lost last week when he missed two attempts, either of which would have won the game.
Injuries were a constant concern. TE Mark Campbell was injured early in the third on a six-yard catch but he returned later in the quarter. Replacement rookie FB Olaniyi Sobomehin was also hurt.
There were also several bad plays but the good outweighed the bad. Special teams allowed DB Allen Rossum to return the ball 55 yards early in the fourth quarter, a drive that ended with the Porter interception. The Saints lost a fumble three yards away from scoring a possible fifth touchdown. A defensive pass interference call late in the fourth allowed the 49ers to advance the ball 43 yards on a drive that gave San Francisco both a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
With today’s win, the Saints are 2-2 for the season and will play the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night. The Vikings lost to the Tennessee Titans this week and are 1-3.