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

With surging momentum from a two-game winning streak, the 49ers face a measuring-stick game today to see where they really stand in the NFC when they meet the high-powered New Orleans Saints, and SFI will keep you up to date on the action with live reports ands commentary from the Louisiana Superdome. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

12:59 p.m. Greetings, 49ers fans. Ah, 49ers vs. Saints. Kind of reminds you of the old says back in the NFC West, eh? Well, not lately. The 49ers dominated New Orleans when the two teams were divisional rivals, winning 45 of 65 games with two ties. Since the NFL re-aligned in 2002 and the Saints moved to the NFC South, New Orleans has dominated the 49ers, winning four in a row. The last two games have been embarrassments, with the Saints winning 34-10 in New Orleans in 2006 and 31-10 in San Francisco last year. The 49ers need to change that around today …

1:02: The Saints win the opening coin toss and will go on offense first. We'll see how San Francisco's surging defense does right away against the NFL's No. 4 offense and No. 1 passing attack …

1:08: Now that's how you pass the first test! The Saints get a good kickoff return, then pick up a quick first down to move the ball to midfield. But from there, the Saints get stoned. And the 49ers do it by getting good heat on quarterback Drew Brees, the man who runs the show for the Saints. First, Takeo Spikes gets in his face and hits Brees hard on first down, forcing a weak incompletion. Then the 49ers blitz again on third-and-long, and Patrick Willis does the same thing as Spikes too plays before, getting to Brees and hitting to force a feeble incompletion. The Saints are forced to punt after the game's opening possession …

1:18: Starting at their own 7-yard line, the San Francisco offense picks up right where it left off the past two weeks, with quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan moving the Niners right down the field. The Niners pick up one first down, then two, then three as O'Sullivan connects on his first three passes. After reaching the New Orleans 32, however, O'Sullivan is sacked on first down by Charles Grant, and that eventually bogs down the drive as O'Sullivan almost gets intercepted going for Isaac Bruce in the end zone on third-and-7 from the 29. Joe Nedney comes in and splits the uprights with a 47-yard field goal to put the 49ers on the scoreboard. All in all, a nice opening drive for the San Francisco O in the hostile environment of the Superdome …
49ers 3, Saints 0

1:27: Huge play be the defense!! The Saints again move into San Francisco territory, and they have a first down at the 42 after Brees draws defensive end Ray McDonald offsides on third-and-4. But on the next play, Brees attempts to throw downfield, and linebacker Takeo Spikes makes a great leaping interception at the San Francisco 37, holding on to a hot pass that had to be tough to handle. Ball back to the San Francisco 0 …

1:33: This time, the 49ers can't do anything with it. It's a three-and-out, and the ball goes back to New Orleans after a 43-yard punt by Andy Lee pins the Saints back at their 17-yard line …

1:41: Another big stop by the San Francisco defense after the Saints pass the midfield stripe. The secondary is playing outstanding, and Brees can't complete a third-and-12 attempt despite having good time in the pocket. Brees, who entered the game having completed a NFL-high 74.3 percent of his passes, is being thrown out of rhythm by San Francisco's defensive plan. He's now 5 of 12 threw the air, and now the Saints have to punt for the third consecutive possession to begin the game as the first quarter comes to an end …

1:49: Big break for the Saints. Starting at the San Francisco 30, O'Sullivan hits Battle for an initial first down, but he's sacked on the next play. On second-and-15, O'Sullivan is pressured and slips out of the pocket. He rolls to the right to make a play, but Will Smith is coming from the blind side behind him, and O'Sullivan doesn't see him. Smith knocks the ball away, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma jumps on it before it can roll out of bounds. The Saints, who haven't been able to do anything on offense, now are set up at the San Francisco 32. It's O'Sullivan's first turnover since the season opener …

1:55: The Saints take full advantage of the opportunity. Aided by a face-mask penalty on Ronnie Fields, New Orleans gets it into the end zone as Brees throws a perfect pass to Lance Moore in the left corner as cornerback Walt Harris arrives a little late. The Saints have been outplayed to this point, but now they take their first lead of the game…
Saints 7, 49ers 3

1:57: The 49ers attempt some razzle-dazzle on the ensuing kickoff return as Allen Rossum takes the kick, heads to his left, then hands the ball off to Michael Robinson, who reversed field to the right. But the Saints are ready for it, and Robinson can't get away and is dropped inside the 20, where the 49ers will go back on offense behind for the first time …

2:02: On first down, Gore hits it hard inside for five yards, then picks up four yards on second down. But facing third-and-1, the 49ers opt to go for a quick pass in single coverage, and O'Sullivan misses badly on a throw to his left. Just like that, the 49ers are giving the ball back to the Saints as the San Francisco offense has been stymied for a third consecutive possession …

2:12: Who's Lance Moore? He's a guy who's killing the 49ers right now. The Saints move into San Francisco territory after taking Lee's punt, and Brees freezes the defense with a nice fake as he drops back to pass from the 33. Moore gets man coverage from safety Dashon Goldson, who doesn't turn his hips quickly enough and allows Moore to run right by him. Brees isn't going to miss an opportunity like that, and he finds Moore falling down in the end zone as he waits for the ball, with Goldson running in a desperate attempt to catch up. It's the poorest play we've seen by Goldson in a long time, and now the Saints are in command …
Saints 14, 49ers 3

2:14: Allen Rossum has a nice return of the ensuing kickoff, and the 49ers get some yardage tacked on when the Saints are called for a facemask penalty. The 49ers are in business, starting at the New Orleans 46 as they attempt to close the score by halftime with just under three minutes remaining in the second quarter …

2:19: The 49ers are having difficulty protecting O'Sullivan, who's sacked for the fourth time on first down. But on the next play – after a replay challenge by the Saints that never seemed to make much sense – O'Sullivan hits Arnaz Battle on a quick slant for a 23-yard gain. The 49ers are moving at the New Orleans 32 …

2:26: A tripping penalty on guard Tony Wragge immediately sets the 49ers back to 10 yards, but Gore almost gets all the yardage back on a burst up the middle on the next play. Facing third-and-9 later in the series, O'Sullivan has Bruce in man coverage on the left side, but he throws too early and Bruce – who has gotten behind the New Orleans secondary – has no time to adjust to the throw, which is way behind him anyway. The 49ers have to settle for a long field-goal attempt by Nedney, but he coolly drills a season-best 49-yard attempt to make it a one-score game again. But there still is almost two minutes remaining in the half for the New Orleans offense …
Saints 14, 49ers 6

2:30: What is going on here? The Saints begin the ensuing series at their own 26, and Brees immediately moves New Orleans into San Francisco territory, where once again the back side of the defense fails. On second-and-three from the New Orleans 47, Brees is in the shotgun, and he sits back and watches receiver Robert Meacham run right down the middle of the field and past safety Mark Roman, who runs way too late in coverage. Meacham has several steps on Roman, and Brees gets the ball there before Roman can catch up. It's another quick touchdown for the Saints, and what all the sudden has happened to the 49ers? ...
Saints 21, 49ers 6

2:40: With 52 seconds remaining, the 49ers still have some time to strike back as Rossum takes the ensuing kickoff out to the San Francisco 27. O'Sullivan immediately hits Battle for 22 yards on first down to get the 49ers near midfield, but the drive ends there after three consecutive incompletions as O'Sullivan is pressured heavily. The Saints are penalized for running into the punter as Lee kicks it away, but the penalty is not enough for a first down, and the half ends with Brees kneeling down deep in his own territory. After such a great start, this is one half the 49ers will be quick to forget …

2:47: The stats tell the story: The Saints have outgained the 49ers 250-121 at halftime. After his slow start, Brees warmed up considerably and is 15 of 23 for 195 yards and three touchdowns after two quarters. That's the story of the game so far right there, folks. The Saints also have a 18:09-11:51 advantage in time of possession as the 49ers are an uncharacteristic 0 for 5 trying to convert on third downs. O'Sullivan is 7 of 16 for 107 yards through the air, and Gore has been productive on the ground with 39 yards rushing, but he has had only eight carries …

2:54: Rossum returns the second-half kickoff 32 yards, and the 49ers immediately go on first down to Gore, who rumbles up the middle for 10 tough yards to get the 49ers moving. On third-and-4, O'Sullivan finds Gore over the middle for a big 24-yard gain, and the offense looks to be in rhythm again with a first down at the New Orleans 28 …

2:58: O'Sullivan to Bruce on a quick slant for another first down! That's what the 49ers need to get going. They're moving now. But wait. On second-and-9, O'Sullivan is sacked for the fifth time for a five-yard loss. It's a drive killer, and O'Sullivan throws incomplete to a tightly-covered Battle in the end zone on third down. The 49ers settle for a 38-yard field goal by Nedney, who has provided all their points so far. It's points, but the 49ers would have liked a touchdown here to get back in the game …
Saints 21, 49ers 9

3:10: A nice defensive stand by the 49ers, who stuff the Saints after they reach midfield. Mike Nolan burns a timeout with a confusing challenge on an incidental short completion to tight end Mark Campbell, who's hurt on the play. The play is ruled a completion – what was Nolan seeing differently or being told differently? – and the play is upheld by the officials, costing the 49ers the timeout. But on third-and-5 from the 50, safety Michael Lewis makes a fine play in coverage to bat away a Brees pass and the Saints are stopped and have to punt the ball away. This could be the Niners' opening to get back in this one …

3:18: With Gore doing a lot of the work, the 49ers drive into New Orleans, where they face a big third-and-2 at the New Orleans 43. O'Sullivan steps up to the line, but then burns a timeout before running the play. Big play coming up here with time winding down to the four-minute mark in the third quarter …

3:22: The Niners don't try anything fancy, and go right to their meal ticket. Gore responds by hitting it up the middle for a healthy gain. Then O'Sullivan hits Delanie Walker for a big gain down the left sideline. After a catch by Bruce – moving him into fifth place all-time in NFL career receptions – the 49ers are knocking at the door near the New Orleans 10-yard line …

3:24: Oh no! It's another killer turnover by O'Sullivan. He looks over the middle and throws into the end zone, but he never sees safety Kevin Kaesviham, who reaches up to make the interception in the end zone. Talk about momentum swings. No points for the 49ers after their second consecutive drive of 10 plays or more, and the Saints preserve their double-digit lead just as the 49ers were about to make this one tight again. Huge, huge turnover by the Niners when everything was going their way …

3:29: Another ‘Oh no' play by the Saints. Backed up deep in their own territory, the Saints go with a flea flicker as Brees hands off to Deuce McAllister, who flips the ball back to Brees. The QB winds up to go deep and unloads down the left sideline, where Meacham is covered well by Lewis. But as the ball arrives, Lewis doesn't make a play on it, and Meacham pulls it in for a massive 52-yard gain to set up the Saints deep in San Francisco territory as the third quarter comes to an end …

3:35: The Saints finish off a 91-yard touchdown drive with McAllister diving over the goal line from a yard out. This one is over as the New Orleans lead grows to 19 points …
Saints 28, 49ers 9

3:41: Rossum busts out a 55-yard return of the ensuing kickoff. He's having a great game. The 49ers are trying to get some points back fast, and now O'Sullivan faces a fourth-and-7 as the 49ers are going for it from the New Orleans 27. He hits Battle on the right sideline for 11 yards and a first down! But on the next play, O'Sullivan throws into the end zone, and cornerback Tracy Porter makes the interception. It's another killer turnover for O'Sullivan, and that was just a plan bad throw. If McAllister's TD didn't settle the issue, this turnover does with 10 minutes remaining …

3:51: What is happening to the San Francisco defense? Specifically, that veteran secondary? With the Saints facing a third-and-13, Devery Henderson puts a stop-and-go move on Nate Clements, then runs past him down the right sideline. Brees is on the money, hitting Henderson in stride, and he's off to the races. It looks like it's going to be an 83-yard touchdown play, but Clements somehow catches him, diving at his feet to prevent the touchdown. Still, it's an 81-yard gain down to the 2. Sheez …

3:55: But hold on. Clements' touchdown-saving tackle shows why you never quit on a play in the NFL. The Saints can't punch it in, but facing fourth-and-goal from the 1, they decide to go for it. Brees fakes a handoff and rolls right, where he finds rookie fullback Olaniyi Sobomehin open in the flat. The rookie makes the catch and it looks like a sure touchdown, but Lewis flies into the play and drills Sobomehin right at the goal line, popping the ball loose just before it makes it over the goal line. Patrick Willis jumps on the ball, and it's a big stop for the San Francisco defense. The Saints challenge that the ball was over the goal line before the fumble, but the play is upheld after replay …

4:02: Where was this offense when the 49ers really needed it today? With O'Sullivan making plays, San Francisco goes 93 yards for a touchdown in just more than two minutes. O'Sullivan finds Vernon Davis – where has he been all day? – for 19 yards. Then – after another sack – O'Sullivan finds Battle over the middle for a big 36-yard gain on third-and-16. That takes the ball to the 5, and two plays later, it's vintage O'Sullivan. He scrambles away from pressure, reverses field to the right, then finds Bruce in the corner of the end zone with a perfect strike for the score. Now the 49ers are going for the two-point conversion. O'Sullivan dumps off an inside shovel pass to Gore, who barrels into the end zone. It's eight points for the 49ers, and also the highlight of a rough day for the offense, which just went right down the field in six plays …
Saints 28, 49ers 17

4:05: There's an onside kick coming up, that's pretty obvious. This isn't one of Nedney's better efforts, and the ball bounds over the first wave of New Orleans and comfortably into the hands of Moore, punctuating his big day in which he had a career high for receptions ...

4:12: Taking the ball with 4:08 remaining, the Saints pick up a first down as McAllister grinds for the necessary yardage on thrid-and-2, and that should about do it as the 49ers can't stop the clock since they've already burned all their timeouts. McAllister carries three times as the two-minute warning comes and goes, and he's stopped for no gain on third-and-3 from the 13. Time to take a knee and here. But no! What the heck? New Orleans coach Sean Payton is sending out kicker Martin Gramatica for a field goal! What's the point of this? Gramatica routinely drills a 31-yarder with 32 seconds remaining. What's up with that Sean Payton? …
Saints 31, 49ers 17

4:18: Rookie defensive end Kentwan Balmer – making his second kickoff return in his fourth NFL game – returns a short kick 14 yards to the 39, and the 49ers run a few plays, with O'Sullivan flipping an under-handed pass to Gore for a 7-yard gain on what would have been the final play of the game, except that the Saints are called for defensive delay of game, so the game can't end on that play. With no time left on the clock, O'Sullivan kneels down on the final play, and that seems like an appropriate finish to this one.
Final score: Saints 31, 49ers 17



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