SFI's LIVE Game Blog: 49ers vs. Saints

It's the 49ers vs. the Saints today in a battle between two of the NFC's most disappointing teams that both need a win to remain on the edge of contention as midseason approaches, and SFI will keep you up to date on the action with live reports and commentary from Monster Park in San Francisco. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

12:48 p.m. Greetings, 49ers fans, to the latest must-win game for the Niners on their home field. As poorly as San Francisco has played thus far in its highly disappointing 2007 season, there still is time to get it right, but that has to start here. As in, right now, today, by 4:15 this afternoon. If the 49ers go 2-5, matching their record after seven games last year, you can pretty much kiss good-bye any thoughts of a winning season and/or playoff berth …

12:51: Running back Frank Gore, who was downgraded to questionable on Friday, looked fine before the game and will start. The 49ers will have two new players in their starting lineup – Adam Snyder in place of Jonas Jennings at left tackle and Ashley Lelie at wide receiver in place of Darrell Jackson ...

12:52: The 49ers inactives today at Jennings, Jackson, WR LeRon McCoy, CB Tarell Brown, S Keith Lewis, G Tony Wragge, DE Atiyyah Ellison and Shaun Hill, was again will be the emergency third quarterback …

1:09: When the NFL was configuring its 2007 schedule, it made this match-up one of its featured 1:15 p.m. afternoon games, expecting that the 49ers and Saints would be NFC frontrunners and this game could have heavy playoff implications. Yeah, right. Instead, they get two 2-4 teams fighting for survival ...

1:15: Quarterback Alex Smith, finally making his comeback from his separated throwing shoulder, linebacker Ray Willis and returner Michael Lewis trot out to midfield for the coin toss as the 49ers' game captains. The Saints call tails, the coin comes down heads and the 49ers will get the ball first. Let's hope this team has figured out how to protect Smith this time …

1:17: The game gets started two minutes late as Olindo Mare steps into the opening kickoff. It's going to be a long afternoon, and let's hope that turns out in a good way for the 49ers …

1:23: The 49ers start off in shotgun formation with Smith in an empty backfield, but it's a bad start for San Francisco as he throws to Delanie Walker in the flat on first down, and Walker takes a crunching hit after making the catch for no gain. Walker is down and stays down for several minutes before he finally is helped off the field, but it doesn't look as bad as it originally did when he was on the field. The drive quickly stalls as Vernon Davis is flagged for a false start and, on third-and-long, Smith throws high and wild down the deep middle over Arnaz Battle's head for an incompletion …

1:27: Uh-oh. On New Orleans' first play from scrimmage, quarterback Drew Brees rolls right and it's bombs away as he spots David Patten downfield. Patten puts a stop-and-go move on Nate Clements and is wide open to haul in a 43-yard receptions. Talk about quick strikes. Two plays later, as the Saints roll right down the field, Marques Colston breaks wide open over the middle and takes a quick pass from Brees and dives into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown before he is touched by a 49er. The Saints need only four plays to go 73 yards for the game's first score, and just like that, the 49ers already are in a hole with barely three minutes elapsed in the game …
Saints 7, 49ers 0

1:36: It looks like another three-and-out for the 49ers as Smith's third-down pass to Davis is short of a first down, but the 49ers get a break when Saints cornerback Jason Craft is called for illegal use of hands away from the play. And there, the 49ers finally get it going as Smith hits Davis crossing the field from left to right for a 19-yard gain into New Orleans territory. On the next play, Maurice Hicks shoots through an inside hole but is stuck by safety Josh Bullocks, and the ball pops into the air! Saints linebacker Scott Fujita grabs it right there for a fumble recovery and San Francisco turnover. What a rally killer, and the 49ers are hurting themselves once again after their four-turnover effort last week in New York …

1:47: The San Francisco defense forced a three-and-out, looking much more prepared the second time New Orleans has the ball, but the same thing happens on the 49ers' next drive, which starts at their own 5-yard line. Backed up into his own end zone, Andy Lee gets off a 50-yard punt, but it's low and Lance Moore returns it 18 yards, setting up the Saints with prime field position at the San Francisco 43. And then, on first down, Reggie Bush takes a swing pass from Brees and turns it into a quick 16-yard gain as the Saints go marching on …

1:54: Devery Henderson makes a great catch along the sideline to take the ball down to the San Francisco 8, but did he get both feet in bounds? It's a tough call as he drags his toes right along the sideline, but the officials call it a catch. Was it? As the Saints run up to the line of scrimmage, Mike Nolan throws the red challenge flag. The replays are inconclusive, and the play stands, with the 49ers losing the timeout. But the defense holds after that – fortunately, Colston dropped a potential touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone – and the Saints settle for a 26-yard field goal by Mare, which puts the 49ers two scores down just 12 minutes into the game …
Saints 10, 49ers 0

2:03: After the 49ers pick up an initial first down, Smith drops back to pass and scrambles to the left when nothing is there. As he angles for the sideline, he absorbs a vicious on his right shoulder as he's popped out of bounds by Fujita. But Smith gives nobody time to hold their breath as he pops right up. His injured shoulder can't take a much harder hit than that, so all looks well with Smith's throwing wing. And then, on third-and-long, he hooks up with Davis for another first down as the first quarter comes to an end with the 49ers at the New Orleans 45 …

2:05: But the drive quickly dies at midfield as Gore pounds into the line twice and, on third-and-5, Smith overthrows Battle on the right sideline. The rust is showing as Smith is way off on his passes so far with anything down the field. The 49ers get a well-placed 46-yard punt from Lee, however, putting the Saints back at their own 4-yard line to start their next drive ...

2:10: The Saints come up inches short on third down, and it's another nice stop by the San Francisco defense. Steve Weatherford punts from his goal line, and his kick goes out of bounds at the New Orleans 44 as the 49ers start another drive in good field position …

2:16: On first down, the pocket breaks down quickly and Smith is hit from behind by Brian Young. It's near-disaster as the ball bounced on the ground, but right tackle Joe Staley falls on it. It's a seven-yard loss, however, and the drive already is doomed. Smith, rolling to his right, makes another poor throw on second down, and though Hicks squirts up the middle for a nice gain on the next play, it's not enough for the first and the 49ers have to punt away the ball again. Sound familiar? The Saints start at their own 9 this time after Lee's punt …

2:22: The magic of Bush is on display as he takes an inside handoff and pops it outside for a 20-yard gain that takes the ball to the New Orleans 49. The 49ers force a third-and-11, but Patten gets free over the middle for a 20-yard gain to keep the drive alive. The Saints try some razzle-dazzle on the next two plays – with bad results and big results. First, a slow-developing double-reverse ends up in Patten's arms for a six-yard loss. But on the next play, Bush takes a handoff, stops and then tosses the ball back to Brees for a flea flicker. Shawntae Spencer is burned on the play, and he runs into Colston at the goal line as he attempts to recover for an obvious interference call. The Saints have a first-and-goal at the San Francisco 2, and this one is starting to get out of hand. The 49ers need a big stop here …

2:26: They don't get it. On first down, former 49er Eric Johnson slips wide open I the right corner of the end zone, but he catches the ball with one foot out of bounds. No matter. On the next play, Brees spots the corner on the left side playing off and hits reserve receiver Terrance Copper on a quick slant that is wide open for another Saints touchdown. It looks like the rout is on …
Saints 17, 49ers 0

2:34: It's one-first-down-and-out for the 49ers, which for this team might sound better than another three-and-out, but not really when you're behind by 17 points with plenty of time still remaining in the second quarter. After Lee hits a 59-yard bomb into the end zone, the Saints start their next drive at the San Francisco 20 with 4:25 remaining, and Brees immediately throws for a first down to begin the drive …

2:44:It's getting embarrassing. The Saints go right down the field again, and Brees is starting to pick apart the San Francisco defense, with New Orleans picking on right cornerback Walt Harris in particular. The Saints go to Harris' side for several completions on a 10-play, 80-yard drive, with Colston turning around Harris to get free in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 50 seconds remaining in the half. This is bad, really bad …
Saints 24, 49ers 0

2:50: It hurts to watch the 49ers attempt to get into scoring range in the 43 seconds, though Smith does make few nice throws as San Francisco gets down to the New Orleans 36. But he also makes some bad, off-target throws, too, and then he sacked on the final play of second quarter, finally bringing a horror show of a first half to an end for the 49ers, who slump off the field to a chorus of boos …

2:59: The gory halftime numbers: The Saints have a 266-115 edge in total yards, even though the 49ers have a slight edge in time of possession. Brees is 21 of 26 for 222 yards and three touchdown pass, a striking contrast to Smith's pedestrian 9 of 20 for 84 yards. Bush also has been moving the ball with 48 yards on just six carries, while Gore is getting shut down again with just 22 yards on 8 carries, and he doesn't figure to see the ball a whole lot in the second half with the 49ers trailing by 24 points. No duh. Oh, and that Saints offense gets the ball first in the second half. Look out below! …

3:07: The Saints come out passing in the second half – and why not? Brees goes to Moore for a first-down on the first play to get things started, and that's already the eighth different player he has completed a pass to this afternoon. But the 49ers toughen up after that. The Saints go after Harris again on two of the next three plays, but he has tight coverage both times, and even gets his hands on the ball on third down as New Orleans is forced to punt …

3:12: If the 49ers went back to the drawing board on offense at halftime, then the drawing board was no good. It's a quick three-and-out for the 49ers on their first drive – or let's start just calling them "possessions" from now on, because they're certainly not drives – to begin the second half …

3:18: Finally, a big play by the defense. Colston takes a short pass from Brees and is immediately wrapped up by cornerback Nate Clements, who strips him of the ball right in front of the San Francisco sideline. The 49ers are set up at the New Orleans 46 and need to start getting on the board in a hurry with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter …

3:22: There's some life in this San Francisco offense after all, and it belongs to backup running back Michael Robinson. After keeping the drive moving by busting over right tackle for a first down on third-and-1, Robinson takes a short pass from Smith over the middle, breaks five tackles and runs over a New Orleans defender before he finally is brought down after a 20-yard gain that takes the 49ers down to the 14-yard line. That nice run gets the crowd back into the game …

3:31: But the offense stumbles around after that, wasting a timeout in the process, before the 49ers finally settle for a 29-yard field goal by Joe Nedney on their best scoring opportunity of the afternoon. But hey, that averts the shutout, and San Francisco finally is on the board with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Hey, you start looking for small victories where you can find them when things are going this bad. But then Nedney boots the ensuing kickoff out of bounds to allow the Saints to start their next drive at their 40 …
Saints 24, 49ers 3

3:44: The San Francisco defense comes up with a nice stop just as the Saints are moving into scoring territory, and the offense responds with a first down, with Smith standing in to take a big hit while completion a third-down pass to Bryan Gilmore. But that's it and the 49ers are forced to punt the ball away again as the fourth quarter begins …

4:05: It's getting tedious now as the Saints again roll down the field, burning time off the clock with runs and then completing the passes they need to keep the chains moving. And there's insult added to injury as the collapse continues – Colston beats Spencer off the line on third-and-6 from the San Francisco 15 and makes a nice catch along the left side of the end zone as a back-to-the-football Spencer runs into him. The 49ers challenge the play, but replays show Colston gets both feet down in the end zone before his left hand touches out of bounds and the touchdown stands. It completes an 11-play, 77-yard scoring march, and the 49ers lose their final timeout with 8:47 remaining to play …
Saints 31, 49ers 3

4:16: With the stands emptying in a hurry, the San Francisco offense looks to put some semblance of respectability onto the end of this one. It's not pretty by any means, but Smith stands up to pressure and takes the 49ers down the field, looking better than he did at any point previously in the game. Rookie Jason Hill makes his first career reception as the 49ers go 80 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown. Smith, getting hit once again as he throws, zips in a nice 7-yard pass to Davis in the end zone, and the 49ers hit double digits. Of course, it's much too little and way too late, and there are only a few thousand fans left in the stands to actually see it …
Saints 31, 49ers 10

4:20: The 49ers recover one onside kick, but the play goes over because San Francisco was offsides on the kick. It figures. The 49ers appear to recover on the re-kick, but of course that not what ultimately happens and San Francisco is charged with touching the ball before it goes 10 yards. The Saints replace Brees with backup Jamie Martin and send several other reserves into their offensive huddle …

4:24: After already using all of their timeouts, the 49ers can't stop the clock, but that's OK, because everybody would rather see this one end as soon as possible. The Saints, however, running straight dive plays, get the ball to the San Francisco 13 at the two-minute warning …

4:29: And a long afternoon it was for the 49ers. Well, we had a feeling. The Saints go for it on fourth down inside the San Francisco and fail, and the 49ers' offense goes back on the field at its own 10-yard line with 11 seconds to play. That typifies what a hopeless afternoon it was for the 49ers. Smith takes the snap and takes a knee, and that's it. Thankfully. Wow, that was some bad football by the home team. There's no other way to say it …
Final score: Saints 31, 49ers 10

Make sure to check back with sfillustrated.com later this afternoon and evening for full post-game coverage, analysis and comments from the San Francisco locker room, and then check back throughout the week for daily coverage of the team and NFL as the 49ers attempt to get their season back on track next week at Atlanta, where they need to get a victory to match their 3-5 start of last year.



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