The San Francisco 49ers snapped the Saints' three-game winning streak, beating them 31-21. All day, the 49ers defense made enough plays and gave the New Orleans offense a headache, scoring on two pick-sixes and harassing Drew Brees for the majority of the game.
The New Orleans Saints had a huge opportunity to gain some ground in the Wild Card race this week with all teams ahead of them losing. They blew that opportunity. Still, the Saints are still only one game behind for the last NFC Wild Card spot. But if the offense played the way it did today, they'll have an early vacation.
This game against the 49ers could have been won. The Saints were up at one point against one of the top teams in the NFL; they were up against one of the top defenses in the NFL due to some good performances. At the same time, mistakes killed any chance of the Saints beating San Francisco due to some bad performances.
Let's take a look at some Saints winners and losers from Week 12.
Out of all the times the Saints relied on Drew Brees to be stellar and save them, this one was probably the most needed against a tough 49ers defense.
The New Orleans quarterback threw two pick-sixes in a span of four minutes. Wow. That's not something often seen by this quarterback. Both were costly, turning a seven-point lead into a 14-point deficit. You take away those two scores and the Saints are up. Brees was also unable to rally the Saints back, unable to produce anything in the fourth quarter.
It's tough when working behind a depleted offensive line like Drew Brees did—Brees got sacked five times. He finished the night completing 26 of 41 passes for 267 yards, three touchdowns and those two back-breaking interceptions.
The special teams play of the game came from safety Rafael Bush. It was on a punt to Ted Ginn Jr. He delivered a hard hit on 49ers speedster that jarred the ball loose, then he recovered the muffed punt at the 49ers' 10-yard line.
Bush gave the Saints the opportunity to gain momentum and take the lead, and they did just that, going up 14-7 two plays later after the recovery. Unfortunately, we know what happens after.
It was a tough game to be in, going against a team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season, but players have to always keep themselves poised.
Brodrick Bunkley did exactly the opposite.
With the Saints trailing late in the game, the defensive tackle kicked 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone in the head. The Saints were charged with a 10-yard personal foul penalty, and he was thrown out of the game. He hurt himself and his team.
Colston didn't have one of his typical "quiet storm" games against the 49ers, finishing the night with four receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.
It's that 10-yard touchdown catch that was special. With that touchdown reception (his 56th), he became the Saints' franchise touchdown leader, surpassing former Saints running back Deuce McAllister. Not too bad for a former Hofstra star that was drafted in the seventh round.
He gave his team and Who Dat nation a scare when, after going up for a high Brees pass and landing on his head, lay motionless on the turf. After passing his concussion tests, he went back in the game in the fourth quarter.
The Saints offensive line was hit hard with the injury big, and hit even harder by the 49ers defense. Sure, the 49ers defense can make any top offensive line look foolish, but the Saints line got beat for five sacks, and allowed San Fran to harass quarterback Drew Brees all game.
Brees being hurried for most of the time due to some bad O-line blocking led to some ill-advised passes.
The Saints running back unit is taking everyone for a ride. First, it started off slow, not doing anything the first few games, then the resurgence of the unit helped fuel the Saints' win streak. In Week 12, against the 49ers, the backs could only muster up 59 yards on the ground with no touchdowns.
Mark Ingram gained 27 yards on 10 carries, and Chris Ivory had 34 yards on eight carries.
Without their ground game, the offense is relying too heavily and Drew Brees and Co. which is what hurt them, especially if Brees has no time to do anything. It's no coincidence that when the Saints running backs were on their game, the offense was humming and the Saints were on a winning streak.