After a successful first drive that resulted in a field goal, the 49er offense stalled. In the beginning of the second quarter, O’Sullivan held on to the ball too long, took a hit from behind and coughed it up.
The defense, which had been successful at blitzing Brees, stopped. Brees, in return, was able to sit back and pick the secondary apart. At the half, the score was 21-6 and the game was effectively over.
It was a sobering reality check for a fan base that had allowed itself to get overly optimistic after consecutive wins against two of the lesser teams in the NFL.
I know, I let them suck me back in.
I got caught up with the excitement of the Seahawks victory, enjoyed the blowout win against the Lions (Did you catch them upset USC on Thursday?), and came into Sunday’s game having convinced myself that they had a great chance to go down to Louisiana and come out 3-1.
What a dolt.
The offense simply fell apart against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
It started with play calling, Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, refused to acknowledge that the offensive line couldn’t hold off the Saints rush alone and he continued to dial up empty backfields with minimum protection.
The defense needed to stay off the field during the horrific stretch in the second quarter, but he stubbornly stuck to the pass despite the fact that the line was struggling in pass protection and O’Sullivan looked shaky.
By the third quarter, it was clear that O’Sullivan was looking to WR Arnaz Battle nearly every time he dropped back, and even prompted the Tim Green to remark that O’Sullivan was making up his mind before the snap where he was going to go.
O’Sullivan’s decision making led to two back-breaking second half interceptions in the end zone, which were intended for Battle—both times he had two defenders all over him.
It wasn’t just the offense. The aforementioned Drew Brees cut through the secondary like a surgeon, the front four couldn’t generate any pressure, and Deuce McAllister looked like he turned the clock back to 2006.
Even 49er Head Coach Mike Nolan got into the act by throwing away a time out by challenging a six yard pass play on a first down at midfield—in the third! Easily the most inexplicable challenge I’ve ever seen.
But coming from Mike Nolan, I can’t say it surprised me.
Just take a deep breath, and remember that this season we're playing with the house's money.