Mistakes cost Saints in loss to 49ers; still alive in NFC playoff picture



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.

San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks interception of Brees just before halftime turned the game around.

The 49ers defense sacked Brees five times and picked him off twice both times returning those interceptions for touchdowns. 14 points on two mistakes that proved costly especially at the time they took place.

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.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was sacked five times by the 49ers on Sunday.

“Obviously, that can’t happen,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said of the 49ers 12-point run. “Otherwise, you feel like the defense played great and they only gave up 17 points, we got a big turnover that gave us a two-minute opportunity at the end of the first half, special teams got a big turnover for us. A lot of things went the way that winning a big game like this would go, and then all of a sudden you give them two free ones. That’s what they thrive on. The first one (was) completely my fault. Within 30 seconds, obviously we’re trying to get down and get some points — a field goal, what have you. I tried to squeeze it in there to Jimmy, and the guy makes an unbelievable (play). The second one, you’re throwing into a tight window, there’s a tipped ball and unfortunately, sometimes those things happen. You just don’t want them to result in an interception and then returned for a touchdown, especially back-to-back situations. All of a sudden, they rattle off 21 points in a short amount of time when we really felt like we had the game under control.”

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.


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.”


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.


Saints defenders tackle Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzales.

It is a very short week for the Saints as they travel to Atlanta to face the (10-1) Falcons on Thursday night. “It’s always a challenge. We’ve got to give our players the proper amount of time to rest and heal up,” Vitt says of the task in having to play in four days. “It’s a challenge for our players and coaches on a short week. We’re not the first one to go through this. The last time we did it was against Dallas two years ago on Thanksgiving Day. We handled the schedule well then, and I anticipate our players will do a great job of handling it this week.”

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.


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