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49ers Fall to Saints in New Orleans, 23-20

Posted Nov 17, 2013

Garrett Hartley's 31-yard field goal with three seconds left ended San Francisco's hopes on Sunday afternoon.

NEW ORLEANS – Both quarterbacks had the ball in their hands with about two minutes left and the opportunity to drive down the field and break a 20-20 tie.

Drew Brees was the one to do it.

Brees and the New Orleans Saints bested Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers in a hotly-contested game before a standing and hand-slapping crowd of 73,025 on Sunday afternoon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Saints kicker Garrett Hartley’s 31-yard field goal with three seconds left provided for the 23-20 final.

PHOTOS: 49ers vs. Saints

Forty-one weeks since their disappointing Super Bowl defeat in the same dome, the 49ers fell in close fashion again. Some of the repercussions: San Francisco (6-4) now has as many losses this season that he had all of last, while New Orleans (8-2) now has more wins than it had all of 2013. The Saints have won seven of their last games against the 49ers, including their 31-21 loss here last November.

With 2:06 left, Kaepernick and his offensive unit started from their own 20-yard line but went three-and-out. Kaepernick being sacked on the first play for an 11-yard loss created a deficit in yardage that he couldn’t make up.

Brees got his own shot with 1:41 showing on the game clock. He dissected a 49ers pass defense that had lost top cornerback Tarell Brown (rib contusion) to injury earlier in the game. Completions of 20 yards and 12 yards to wideout Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham put them in position for Hartley’s third fourth-quarter field goal.

Brees threw for 305 yards and a score, representing his 40th consecutive game with at least 200 yards through the air.

The game was a scoreless one until a minute remained in the first quarter. After handing off to Mark Ingram for a 15-yard run and finding Robert Meachem for a 44-yard pass-and-catch, Brees tossed the ball three yards to tight end Josh Hill for a touchdown. The drive, New Orleans’ longest of the season, spanned 11 plays, 97 yards and nearly seven minutes of game clock.

The 49ers offense, meanwhile, went three-and-out on each of its first three possessions and didn’t record a first down in the first quarter. With that said, a six-yard toss from Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin moved the chains on the opening play of the second quarter.

San Francisco was soon forced to punt away its fourth possession – but the team would keep the ball. Special teamer Bubba Ventrone recovered returner Lance Moore’s muff at New Orleans’ 11-yard line; Moore had attempted to fair catch Andy Lee’s kick at his own 10-yard line.

Two plays later, after a failed Jim Harbaugh challenge on an incompletion in the end zone to wideout Jon Baldwin, Kaepernick found Boldin for an 11-yard touchdown to draw the score even with the point-after.

Kaepernick wasn’t so pinpoint thereafter. Three passes after the Boldin touchdown, he was picked off by Corey White when looking for wideout Mario Manningham. Another stroke of good luck: During his run-back, White fumbled the ball into the back of the end zone just as Kaepernick was tracking him toward the goal line, resulting in a touchback.

What should have been the Saints 14-7 edge turned into a 10-7 49ers advantage when Phil Dawson finished the ensuing possession with a 55-yard field goal. A 24-yard run by Frank Gore set up the score.

Dawson’s three-pointer represented the second longest of Dawson’s career; he executed a 56-yard attempt as a member of the Cleveland Browns on five years ago to the day, on Nov. 17, 2008.

San Francisco’s lead didn’t last long.

New Orleans’ Travaris Cadet returned Dawson’s next kickoff 82 yards down the sideline. Fullback Jed Collins scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge three plays later to give the Saints a four-point edge entering halftime.

On 3rd-and-4, linebacker Ahmad Brooks tipped with his left hand and intercepted a Brees pass meant for tight end Jimmy Graham. Brooks, who returned a pick 50 yards for a touchdown at New Orleans in San Francisco’s 2012 victory, brought this turnover back 22 yards, to the Saints 22-yard line.

This interception was Brees’ first in 150 pass attempts at the Superdome.

Three plays after it, Vernon Davis caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from a rolling-to-his-right Kaepernick.

One week after throwing for 91 yards and an interception, Kaepernick threw for 127 yards and two touchdown passes. The scores went to familiar targets in Davis (eight) and Boldin (three), who have caught all 11 of Kaepernick’s touchdown tosses this season. Davis was cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the Week 10 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The well-designed latter play put the 49ers back on top, 17-14, early into the third quarter. A 29-yard field goal by Dawson gave them breathing room early into the fourth.

San Francisco would need it. New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley’s 23-yard field goal shrank the lead back to three points with 7:50 showing on the scoreboard.

Hartley tied the score at 20 with a 42-yard field goal on a late drive that was extended on a significant referee call. On 3rd-and-2 with three-plus minutes remaining, Brooks’ would-be sack of Brees forced a fumble, which fellow linebacker Patrick Willis recovered. But Brooks was tagged with a personal foul penalty for contacting Brees’ neck during the tackle. Instead of a game-changing turnover, enforcing the penalty gave the Saints a 1st-and-10 at the 49ers 30-yard line.

"Talking to Ahmad, he didn't think it was a penalty," Harbaugh said postgame.

Two integral 49ers – Brown and left guard Mike Iupati (knee) – left the game due to injury and did not return.

San Francisco visits Washington to face the Redskins for “Monday Night Football” in Week 12.


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