The last time New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees played football in the Bay Area, it was a thrilling San Francisco 49ers playoff win following the 2011 season. The game would go on to win an ESPY for the best game of the year and it was a matchup that Brees remembers well. "I'll be honest. When we scored there at the end on Jimmy's long pass play, I thought we won it,'' Brees said earlier this week as he reflected on the loss. "But, man, Alex Smith led them on that drive and it was impressive stuff."
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was a rookie that season and watched that epic game from the sidelines. He has since started three games against the Saints, but today's matchup was the first back in the Bay Area since that playoff victory.
The 49ers came into Sunday's game with the worst rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 185.1 rushing yards per game and on pace for nearly 3,000 yards this season. The Saints got the memo and RB Tim Hightower ran into the endzone for the first touchdown of the game to give New Orleans a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Kaepernick responded with an interception thrown to OLB Craig Robertson. Five plays later, the Saints were back in the end zone thanks to a touchdown pass from Brees to RB Mark Ingram. The point after gave the Saints an 11-point lead early in the game and another score in the second quarter gave them a 21-3 lead.
The 49ers finally answered with about 6 minutes left in the first half. RB DuJuan Harris, filling in for injured starter Carlos Hyde, caught a short pass to the right from Kaepernick and ran all the way into the end zone for the 47-yard touchdown reception to bring the 49ers within 11 points.
The Saints sank the 49ers' high on the very next offensive play as RB Mark Ingram ran 75 yards following the handoff from Brees and put the Saints up 28-10.
A field goal by K Phil Dawson and a 65-yard touchdown reception by TE Vance McDonald from Kaepernick brought the 49ers within 8 until a Saints field goal made it a 31-20 score going into halftime. The touchdown by McDonald gave him the top two longest scoring receptions of the year for the 49ers. The longest was a 75-yard touchdown reception by the tight end during Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. McDonald also became the first tight end with multiple touchdown receptions of 65 yards or more in a season since Shannon Sharpe accomplished the task in 1997.
According to ESPN Stats, the 286 passing yards that Kaepernick had in the first half were the most by a 49ers quarterback since Steve Young had 287 in 1997 against the Atlanta Falcons. His passer rating through the two first quarters was 132.6.
On the 49ers' opening drive of the second half and with DuJuan Harris playing well, the team decided to have RB Mike Davis carry the football inside of the Saints' 10-yard line. Davis fumbled the football and Saints ILB Nate Stupar recovered. Luckily for the 49ers, the defense stepped up and stalled the Saints offense.
The 49ers defense was not so lucky later when, in the fourth quarter, Saints WR Michael Thomas made an impressive catch in the end zone against CB Tramaine Brock, giving New Orleans a comfortable 38-23 lead.
Later, with the Saints leading 41-23 and the 49ers driving down the field, Kaepernick fumbled the football following a bad snap and New Orleans recovered to end the San Francisco scoring threat. Another fumble late in the game, this time by Harris, would seal the loss for San Francisco, who went down by the score of 41-23.
|Penalties (Yds)||4 (40)||9 (78)|
|Punts (AVG)||4 (47)||2 (43)|
|Time of Pos.||38:23||21:06|
Kaepernick ended the game with 398 passing yards, his most since passing for 412 on September 8, 2013 against the Green Bay Packers. He had two touchdowns, an interception, and would finish with a 102.3 passer rating. Harris rushed for 59 yards on 10 carries for the 49ers and Patton led the receivers with 106 yards. For the Saints, Brees had 323 yards passing for three touchdowns. Ingram led New Orleans on the ground, rushing for 158 yards and a touchdown. Thomas led the Saints' receivers with 73 yards and two touchdowns.
|49ers Team Leaders|
DE Arik Armstead left the game in the first quarter after aggravating his left shoulder, an injury that has plagued the second-year player since training camp.
OLB Eli Harold went down with an injury in the first quarter of play. He would return to the game in the second quarter.
LB Nick Bellore left the game in the second quarter with what looked to be an arm/shoulder injury. He returned to the game.
FS Eric Reid jogged off of the field with medical staff after he was slow to get up in the fourth quarter.
Notes and Quotes
The 49ers made NFL history on Sunday when they became the first team ever to give up 7-straight 100-yard rushers. The Saints would end up rushing for 248 yards as a team.
|Week||Running Back||Rush Yds||TDs|
|1||Todd Gurley, LA||47||0|
|2||Fozzy Whittaker, CAR||100||0|
|3||Christine Michael, SEA||108||2|
|4||Ezekiel Elliott, DAL||138||1|
|5||David Johnson, ARI||157||2|
|6||LeSean McCoy, BUF||140||3|
|7||Jacquizz Rodgers, TB||154||0|
|9||Mark Ingram, NO||158||1|
The last time the 49ers lost seven straight games was in 2007 when they lost eight in a row under then-head coach Mike Nolan.
QB Colin Kaepernick has surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards. He now has 2,005.
WR Quinton Patton had his first 100-yard receiving game.
The 49ers have given up over 37 points-per-game in their seven-straight losses.
"We're not good enough on the defensive side of the ball to turn the ball over like that," head coach Chip Kelly said of the 49ers running backs following the loss.
Kelly said that there are no plans to make changes to the 49ers defensive coaching staff. He said that the decision for Jim O'Neil, who is normally on the sidelines during games, to go into the booth was O'Neil's call.
Kelly was asked about Arik Armstead's injury and if the team would consider ending his season because of the lingering shoulder issue. Kelly stated that he does not yet know the extent of the injury.
Kaepernick said that he felt that the offense had more rhythm in the loss, but said that they still left a lot out there, particularly in the red zone.
"Complaining about it, worrying about it, aren't going to help you fix it," said Kaepernick regarding the 49ers' 7-game losing streak.
"I thought I could beat the guy with the throw," Kaepernick said of his interception. "I saw him the whole way."