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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports


Recap: Special teams blunders help sink 49ers in 27-13 loss to Saints

Nov 15, 2020 at 4:37 PM--


1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
SF 7 3 0 3 13
NO 0 17 0 10 27

On December 3, 2019, the playoff-bound 49ers and Saints put on a show to remember in front of a packed house at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana -- a 48-46 shootout won by the 49ers that was widely regarded as the most exciting game of last year's regular season.

The 49ers and Saints staged a rematch at the Superdome on Sunday, but the circumstances this time around were quite different, as an injury-riddled 49ers team entered into a mostly empty Superdome as a 10-point underdog to a surging Saints team on a five-game winning streak and heading towards their fourth consecutive postseason appearance. The 49ers put up a fight and kept things competitive for much of the game but made too many mistakes in the end, with two costly special teams miscues in particular leading to a 27-13 loss.

The 49ers held an advantage in time of possession (32:54 to 27:06) and overall plays (66 to 55) but committed two punting-related errors that led directly to two Saints touchdowns. Those miscues helped the Saints pull off their seventh win of the season despite being without quarterback Drew Brees for the entirety of the second half due to a rib injury.

As It Happened


The 49ers received the opening kickoff and got off to a strong start on offense, marching 75 yards on 13 plays in seven minutes and seventeen seconds to take a 7-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown pass from Nick Mullens to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Mullens went six-for-seven for 47 yards on the drive, with three of his passes going to Aiyuk for 30 yards.


The teams traded three-and-outs following the touchdown, then the 49ers got a break when a muffed punt by Saints return man Deonte Harris was recovered by safety Marcell Harris to set up possession at the Saints' 49-yard line. The 49ers advanced the ball to the three-yard line, due in large part to a 22-yard third-down catch by tight end Ross Dwelley combined with a roughing the passer penalty on Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata. But the 49ers were held out of the end zone and had to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Robbie Gould to stretch their lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter.

Deonte Harris redeemed himself on the following kickoff by coming up with an electrifying return that set the Saints up with possession at the 49ers' 25-yard line. The Saints' offense failed to move the ball from there but were able to get on the board with a 49-yard field goal from Wil Lutz to cut their deficit to 10-3.


The 49ers were forced to punt after four plays on the following possession (although the one-handed catch tight end Jordan Reed had on third down was one of the game's highlights), then were set to get the ball back after holding the Saints to another three-and-out. But the 49ers experienced their first dose of special teams disaster when the punt from Mitch Wishowsky bounced off the facemask of 49ers defensive back Ken Webster and was recovered by wide receiver Marquez Callaway to give the Saints possession at the 49ers' 21-yard line. The Saints moved to the 11-yard line after a questionable roughing the passer call on 49ers defensive tackle Kentavius Street, then tied the game three plays later on a two-yard touchdown run from running back Alvin Kamara.


The Saints continued their momentum for the remainder of the half, starting on the next possession when they forced a turnover on downs on a fourth-down run from 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon at the Saints' 41-yard line. The stop gave the Saints possession with 1:50 remaining in the half, which proved to be more than enough time for them to take their first lead. After moving into the red zone on a 34-yard pass from Brees to Kamara, the Saints went up 17-10 four plays later when Brees found a wide-open Kamara in the end zone after fumbling the snap.


The half came to a close after each team traded an unsuccessful possession, then the game took an unexpected turn at the start of the second half when Jameis Winston entered into the game in place of Brees, who was in visible discomfort after taking the hit from Street in the first half. The Saints went three-and-out with Winston under center, then punted to the 49ers, who moved the ball to the Saints' 32-yard line. But the Saints put an end to that threat when Mullens was picked off by safety Malcolm Jenkins at the 33-yard line.


After a three-and-out from each team, the Saints took possession with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter and re-established momentum on offense as Winston led a drive that set the Saints up with a first-and-goal at the four-yard line. Back-to-back sacks from the 49ers knocked the Saints back to a third-and-goal from the 15, but a face mask penalty on linebacker Fred Warner gave the Saints a first down. The 49ers held firm once again, however, forcing the Saints to settle for a 23-yard field goal and a 20-10 lead.

The teams traded punts following the field goal, then another costly special teams mistake from the 49ers -- this one a muffed punt by receiver Richie James -- set the Saints up with possession at the 49ers' 22-yard line. The Saints scored three plays later on a one-yard run from Kamara to extend their lead to 27-10 with 7:29 remaining.


The 49ers added another field goal from Gould later in the quarter, then took possession again after recovering a Taysom Hill fumble with just over three minutes remaining. The 49ers advanced the ball to the Saints' 18-yard line, but Mullens was picked off in the end zone by cornerback Patrick Robinson to ice the game.


Mullens finished the game with 247 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions on 24 of 38 passing, while Brees finished 8 of 13 for 76 yards and one touchdown. Winston put up 63 yards on six of 10 passing in relief of Brees.

Kamara rushed for just 15 yards on eight carries to go with his two touchdowns but led all receivers with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Aiyuk finished with seven catches for 75 yards and one touchdown for the 49ers, who were held to 49 yards on 25 carries on the ground. 33 of those yards came from Jerick McKinnon, who led all rushers with 18 carries.

Game Notes


Even with the loss, the 49ers hold a decisive all-time edge in their series against the Saints (49-27-2)... The 49ers trailed at halftime despite holding a time of possession edge of 22 minutes to eight minutes, a yardage edge of 166 to 90, and an edge in first downs of 13 to 6... Brees entered the day with a 564-561 lead over Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady for the top spot on the list of all-time passing touchdowns, a lead Brady erased with three touchdowns in his team's win over the Carolina Panthers. Brees recaptured the lead with his touchdown pass to Kamara before halftime... 49ers first-round draft pick Javon Kinlaw notched the first sack of his NFL career in the third quarter when he took down Hill for a five-yard loss, then combined with Jordan Willis for a sack early in the fourth quarter.

Up Next


The 49ers (4-6) will now enter into their bye week and will be off until November 29, when they head to Los Angeles for their second matchup of the season against the Rams (4:05 p.m. EST/1:05 p.m. PST, FOX). The 49ers won the first meeting 24-16 on October 18. The Rams moved to 6-3 on the season and a three-way tie for first place in the NFC West with a 23-16 home win over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday... The Saints (7-2) will be back in action at the Superdome against the Atlanta Falcons (3-6) next Sunday (1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST, FOX). The Falcons are coming off a bye.


SF Team Stats NO
281 Total Yards 237
232 Passing Yards 123
49 Rushing Yards 114
6.3 Avg Yards per Pass 6
2 Avg Yards per Run 3.8
2 Fumbles Lost 2
2 Int Thrown 0
2 Sacks Allowed 3
32:54 Time of Pos 27:06
6 Penalties 5

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Nick Mullens 24/38 247 1 2
C.J. Beathard 0/1 0 0 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Jerick McKinnon 18 33 1.8 0
JaMycal Hasty 3 13 4.3 0
Kyle Juszczyk 1 5 5 0
Austin Walter 1 3 3 0
Nick Mullens 1 3 3 0
Brandon Aiyuk 1 -8 -8 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Brandon Aiyuk 7 14 75 1
Jordan Reed 5 6 62 0
Austin Walter 1 1 27 0
Richie James 3 5 26 0
Kendrick Bourne 4 5 26 0
Ross Dwelley 1 2 22 0
Jerick McKinnon 1 3 13 0
Kyle Juszczyk 0 1 0 0
JaMycal Hasty 2 2 -4 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Ken Webster 1 1
Richie James 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Robbie Gould 2 2 40 1
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 5 47.8 0 53
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Jerick McKinnon 14 14 0 14
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Dre Greenlaw 7-4 0 0 0
Tarvarius Moore 4-2 0 0 1
Jamar Taylor 4-0 0 0 0
Kerry Hyder 2-3 1 0 0
Jimmie Ward 2-2 0 0 0
Dion Jordan 2-1 0 0 0
Arik Armstead 2-1 0 0 0
Ken Webster 2-0 0 0 1
Jordan Willis 1-3 0.5 0 0
Javon Kinlaw 1-2 1.5 0 0
Jason Verrett 1-1 0 0 0
Emmanuel Moseley 1-0 0 0 0
Jared Mayden 1-0 0 0 0
D.J. Jones 1-0 0 0 0
Dontae Johnson 1-0 0 0 0
Richie James 1-0 0 0 0
Azeez Al-Shaair 1-0 0 0 0

Saints Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Drew Brees 8/13 76 1 0
Jameis Winston 6/10 63 0 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Latavius Murray 9 57 6.3 0
Taysom Hill 8 45 5.6 0
Alvin Kamara 8 15 1.9 2
Drew Brees 1 -1 -1 0
Jameis Winston 4 -2 -0.5 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Alvin Kamara 7 8 83 1
Michael Thomas 2 7 27 0
Deonte Harris 4 4 24 0
Emmanuel Sanders 1 1 5 0
Tre'Quan Smith 0 1 0 0
Jared Cook 0 2 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Taysom Hill 2 1
Deonte Harris 2 1
Drew Brees 1 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Wil Lutz 2 2 49 3
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Thomas Morstead 5 41 1 48
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Deonte Harris 122 40.7 0 75
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Demario Davis 8-4 1 0 0
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson 6-2 1 0 0
Marcus Williams 4-5 0 0 0
Marshon Lattimore 4-1 0 0 0
David Onyemata 4-0 0 0 0
Malcolm Jenkins 3-2 0 1 0
Marcus Davenport 3-0 0 0 0
Kwon Alexander 2-2 0 0 0
Janoris Jenkins 2-1 0 0 0
Shy Tuttle 2-0 0 0 0
Cameron Jordan 1-2 0 0 0
P.J. Williams 1-1 0 0 0
Malcom Brown 1-1 0 0 0
D.J. Swearinger 1-0 0 0 0
Michael Burton 1-0 0 0 0
Zack Baun 1-0 0 0 0


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