49ers Lose to Saints 24-3: Pass Protection Must Improve

Mike Walker@@mediashowtimeContributor IIIAugust 13, 2011

Saints Pressue to much for 49ers
Saints Pressue to much for 49ersSean Gardner/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are headed in a new direction under the regime of first-year coach Jim Harbaugh.

The 49ers (0-1) lost their preseason opener 24-3, and though Harbaugh clearly stated he is not looking for wins or losses in the preseason, one of Harbaugh's goals was to get clear evaluation on the players and prepare for the September 11 regular season opener against Seattle.

He was able to get his early evaluation on the offensive line protection scheme, and it must get better if the 49ers want a chance to compete in the NFC West.

Going into halftime, Harbaugh told CBS Sports reporter Kim Coyle that the 49ers will be working on improving the execution. “We're getting penalized and were having some protection issues,” Harbaugh said. “We have some things we need to clean up.”

Alex Smith however had little time to execute drives as the Saints (1-0) opened up with a blitz package, and the 49ers offensive line was a couple steps behind. Smith started his first four series by going 0-5 and finished the game 2-of-7 for 10 yards, while being sacked twice.

Smith missed his first opening pass to tight end Vernon Davis over the middle, handed the ball off to Frank Gore for a four-yard gain and felt the power of the New Orleans Saints pass-rush in each of his next four series.

Colin Kaepernick came into relieve Smith and had and opportunity to play with the first team O-line. He handed the ball off for his first five plays and ran for a first down, only to be call back on a holding penalty on a Niners wideout.

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Colin Kaepernick has mobility
Colin Kaepernick has mobilitySean Gardner/Getty Images

Kaepernick responded by stepping up in the pocket on the next play and firing a 20-yard strike to Lance Long on a third-and-10 for a first down. He showed a lot of zip in his arm and will improve each week going into the season.

The Saints brought the pressure and Kaepernick responded with his legs. Exploding for a 28-yard run, the young QB showed he has the mobility to escape pressure and keep drives alive during protection breakdowns.

Kaepernick finished the night going 9-of-19 for 117 yards with two interceptions and David Ackers  booted a 59-yard field goal for the 49ers' only points of the night. 

The 49ers defense applied the same pressure to Brees and showed some live pursuit flying to the football. The 49ers contained the Saints in each of Brees' series who finished the night 1-of-4 for six yards.

Ahmad Brooks and Justin Smith led the way, and cornerback Dontier Winter made a big third down play by getting his hands on the ball and shutting down New Oreleans' drive.

San Francisco's first-round pick Aldon Smith showed a physical presence and opened with an excellent performance, contributing five tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. It’s clear the 49ers rookie will be an asset to the defense this season.

Joseph Morgan scored on a 78-yard punt return to give the Saints a 10-0 lead and the Saints' Mark Ingram showed why they drafted him in the first round with an explosive 14-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter.

Ingram caused 49ers safety C.J. Spellman to miss an easy tackle by spinning out of his grasp and cruised into the end zone, increasing the Saints lead to 17-0. Chris Taylor scored on a four-yard touchdown run for the Saints to post a final score 24-3

Next up for the 49ers will be Oakland Raiders in San Francisco.

who clearly stated he’s not looking for wins or losses in the preseason games.