Ten months ago the New Orleans Saints lost a physical hard fought game to the 49ers in San Francisco. It happened again on Sunday as San Francisco’s defense capitalized on two Saints quarterback Drew Brees mistakes to win 31-21.
New Orleans had a 14-7 lead with 38 seconds to play in the first half, a half where the offense seemed to be moving the ball and the Saints defense was settling in. Brees missed on a deep pass to Devery Henderson that would have given the Saints possibly a field goal as Henderson just quite couldn’t get a second foot in bounds. On the next play disaster struck, as Brees threw over the middle as was picked off by 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks who returned it 50 yards to tie the game up and suck the air out of the Superdome.
“I’m not going to sit here right now and say there was a turning point in the game one way or the other,” Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said following the game about the interception and if it changed the game. “We’re judged on 60 minutes of how we play and our body of work. We didn’t get it done today.”
Okay well I’ll say it. The play was huge because rather than going into the locker room at halftime with a seven or possibly ten point lead that game was tied, momentum had swung and San Francisco would get the ball to open the second half. The 49ers didn’t take long to deliver another body blow to the Saints taking the second half opening kickoff and putting up another quick seven points. 80 yards on six plays in 2:43 seconds culminating in a 6-yard Frank Gore touchdown pass from San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. 14 unanswered points just like that and the Saints trailed by seven.
Following a sack on the team’s first offensive play of the second half, Brees was again picked up over the middle. The pass was high and went off of receiver Marques Colston’s hands and into the waiting arms of Donte Whitner who took it back 42 yards for a touchdown. 21 points in about 4 minutes and 21 seconds of game time and the Saints were knocked on the canvass.
New Orleans managed to battle back and put up a fight as Brees lead the offense on an 80-yard 8 play drive that ended in a 2-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jed Collins. The score cut the lead to seven points but the Saints wouldn’t score again in the game.
Brees finished the day 26 of 41 for 267 yards to go with three touchdown passes and two interceptions. The Saints on the ground rushed it 21 times for 59 yards led by Chris Ivory’s 34 yards on eight carries. Mark Ingram had 27 yards on 10 carries.
CONGRATS TO COLSTON
Saints receiver Marques Colston’s 10-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was his 56th career touchdown for the Black and Gold, making him the franchise’s all-time leader in the category.
“I’m extremely happy for him, because I’ve been lucky enough to throw him every one of those,” Brees said of Colston’s accomplishment. “He’s a model teammate in the way he prepares, the way he plays and the way he practices. He’s a quiet guy, but his actions speak so loudly, you wouldn’t be able to hear what he was saying anyway. He’s a great example for the young receivers, guys like Joe Morgan, others on our team. For those of us who have been with him going on seven years, he’s in big standing, passing Joe Horn and Deuce McAllister and some of the greats that have been here that we have had a chance to play with as well. (It’s a) pretty special honor for him.”
Colston was tied with former Saints runningback Deuce McAllister who congratulated the new leader on Twitter moments after the score. “Congrats to the new td leader in saints history Marcus Colston the quiet storm.”
ANYBODY PLAY RIGHT TACKLE?
To say the Saints are hurting at right tackle right now would be an understatement as the team lost their third players in Bryce Harris at that position. Starter Zach Strief is recovering from a groin injury and back up Charles Brown was injured last week. Harris was carted off into the locker room early in the game yesterday leaving William Robinson to play most of the game. Robinson was signed last week by the team on Tuesday.
“When you lose your right tackle and you’ve got to play with a young man who’s been here four days, that’s a tough challenge,” Vitt said after the game. “I think we did a good job of adjusting. I know we gave up five sacks, and that’s awful hard for everybody to swallow, but we’ve got a good offensive line, we’ve got good players and we’ll rebound from this.”
Strief did practice last week however on a limited basis and could give it a go for Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.
DIRTY BIRDS PART II
Atlanta escaped Tampa Bay with a 24-23 road win snapping a four-game Buccaneers winning streak. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 353 yards in the win.
“It’s a quick turnaround for us. It’s a quick turnaround for them,” Brees said of the upcoming matchup.” They’re coming off a physical division battle at Tampa today. I know they won. Obviously, we’re pretty fresh off playing these guys not too long ago. We’ve got to get to their place, we’ve got to get prepared, we’ve got to put it all together and hopefully every one can wake up tomorrow, not feel as sore as maybe they do now. No rest for the weary and we certainly can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got a huge game on the road against the leader of our division right now in Atlanta. This is how you feel better, go on and get a win like this.”
The Saints beat Atlanta in the dome 31-27 back on November 11.
The Saints despite the loss are still just one game out of the final spot in the NFC playoff picture. In fact with a win last night the Saints would have been in the final spot as a number of teams the Saints are chasing lost.
(6-5) Minnesota lost to the (8-5) Bears, (6-5) Seattle lost at Miami, (6-5) Tampa Bay lost at home to Atlanta, and (7-4) Green Bay lost at the (7-4) Giants last night.
Currently in the playoff race the Saints are 11th but only one game out. (5-6) Dallas is in front of New Orleans based on a 4-5 NFC conference record, the Saints are 3-4. (5-6) Washington is above Dallas and New Orleans because of head to head. Minnesota is 8th, Tampa Bay 7th (they beat Minnesota earlier this year) and Seattle is in the 6th spot.