Saints vs. 49ers: Live Reaction, News and Analysis
In a few hours, it’ll be time to abandon the hype, the predictions and the posturing.
It’ll be time to grab a seat on your couch, on your neighbor’s couch or in a booth at your favorite sports bar.
In short, it’ll be time to end all the (mostly) friendly pregame trash talk and let the Saints and the Niners get down to business.
Game time is 1:30 p.m. at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The TV broadcast will be on Fox (KTVU Channel 2 in the Bay Area and WVUE Channel 8 in the Crescent City). Flagship radio stations KNBR/680 and WWL/870 will carry the game in San Francisco and New Orleans, respectively.
While you’re watching or listening, join my Bleacher Report colleague Jesse Reed on the LiveBlog and check back with me for thoughts about the action every quarter.
Can the tough Niners defense shut down Drew Brees and his talented receivers? Or will Brees hit Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, et al. for big gains and big scores?
Whether you’re hollering “Go, Niners” or “Geaux, Saints,” stay with us for an afternoon of analysis, opinion and lots of fun. See you soon!
Just when it looked as if the game would become a slogfest, the Saints and Niners turned on their offensive machines.
Marques Colston turned his 13th catch of the day into a touchdown to put the Saints up, 24-23. The Niners came back with Alex Smith's 28-yard touchdown run up the left sideline. Jimmy Graham shook Donte Whitner at midfield for another go-ahead Saints TD, followed by a two-point conversion.
That gave the Saints a 32-29 lead with less than two minutes remaining. But the Niners came back with Vernon Davis, who caught a 47-yard pass that was mostly run after catch, then snagged a Smith pass on a post route for the final touchdown with nine seconds left.
The Saints, despite five turnovers, finally came through with their offensive weapons, with Graham, Colston and running back Darren Sproles all accounting for Brees passing TDs. Brees, as usual, had over 300 yards of passing offense.
But in the end, the day belonged to Smith and Davis, the outstanding 49ers tight end who was snubbed by the Pro Bowl. Davis had seven receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns. The second one rivaled The Catch by Dwight Clark against the Dallas Cowboys almost exactly 30 years ago.
Saints safety Roman Harper hit Davis at the goal line right when the ball arrived, but Davis surged forward into the end zone, putting the 49ers ahead for good.
The final frenzy of scoring capped a mainly defensive day that saw the 49ers leading 23-17 with 7:36 to go. Then suddenly it was passing time, with Brees and Smith matching each other down the stretch.
In the end, the Saints' explosive offense literally outdid itself, scoring its final go-ahead TD on just four plays. That gave the 49ers the ball back with a bit under two minutes to go.
And that was all they needed for their final come-from-behind score and a 36-32 win.
Neither team could get much done in the third quarter. The Saints gave up their fifth turnover of the game, resulting in another David Akers field goal and a 20-14 San Francisco lead.
The game has turned into a trench-fighting affair, with defenses dominating. The Saints' widely disregarded defensive line has stepped up, holding the Niners' running game in check. Meanwhile, the Saints' offensive line has done well in pass protection, giving Brees time to throw.
Brees, however, hasn't connected in the big way that he did against Detroit last week. Stout 49er play in the defensive backfield has limited the effectiveness of the Saints' receivers.
Still, it's just a one-possession game as the fourth quarter begins.
New quarter, new story.
Just when it looked as if the 49ers might run away and hide, Drew Brees rallied the Saints for two efficient drives and brought them back to within 17-14 at halftime.
This time, it was more of what people expected. Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a touchdown and then came back to wide receiver Marques Colston on a perfectly thrown over-the-shoulder ball at the right pylon for a second score.
Then Brees got greedy, throwing long for Devery Henderson. Tarrell Brown matched him stride for stride, and leaped for an interception, the 49ers' fourth takeaway of the game.
As effervescent as the 49ers offense was in the first quarter, the second quarter found it flat as day-old beer. Back-to-back drops by Michael Crabtree hurt one drive, after the Niners went three-and-out on their first possession. Smith's fumble at his own 45 gave the Saints another shot with less than a minute left, but New Orleans couldn't capitalize.
So we're back to square one. Can the Saints recapture the momentum after the 49ers receive to start the second half? Can the 49ers offense get it going again? Will the Saints keep the ball out of the greedy hands of the 49ers defense? Will Brees hit Colston, Graham or perhaps Darren Sproles to put the Saints ahead?
Injury notes: Tight end Jimmy Graham of the Saints and center Jonathan Goodwin of the 49ers were both dinged in the first half. Both returned, but may not be at 100 percent. Look to see if they're as effective as needed in the second half.
Stay tuned, and we'll talk again after the third quarter.
The San Francisco 49ers had 38 takeaways during the regular season, and continued the trend against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter.
New Orleans' first four possessions looked like this: Pierre Thomas fumble, Drew Brees third-down sack, Drew Brees Interception and Courtney Roby fumble.
The 49ers' 17-0 lead was a surprising start to a game in which most people expected the Saints to be the team with the explosive offense. Instead, Niners quarterback Alex Smith connected with Vernon Davis on a 49-yard touchdown, and later hit Michael Crabtree on a short slant route for a second TD.
The Saints' multifaceted offense made things look easy on its first drive, only to lose the ball on the 49ers' 2-yard line when Thomas was hit by Donte Whitner of San Francisco.
All in all, it's been a different ballgame from the one people had expected. Join me at halftime and we'll talk more.