Sometimes history repeats itself, and at least for the first half, today’s game in San Francisco looks a lot like the 2011 playoff matchup between the 49ers and Saints. However, the Black and Gold separated themselves in the second half and came away with victory, 41-23.
It didn’t start well after a penalty derailed their opening drive, and San Francisco got on the scoreboard first with a field goal. But after that, it was all Saints.
The Saints were committed to the run, and it paid off with a Tim Hightower touchdown to give them a 7-3 lead. Then following a Craig Robertson interception returned deep into 49ers territory, Drew Brees connected with Michael Thomas on third down for a clutch touchdown pass to make it 14-3.
New Orleans powered their way to the endzone on the ground again on their next drive. This time it was Mark Ingram on a short pass turned touchdown from Drew Brees for a 21-3 lead.
But the 49ers would only stay quiet for so long. DuJuan Harris took a basic swing pass from Colin Kaepernick and went 47 yards for their first touchdown of the day.
Once again, Mark Ingram came with a quick response. On the first play of the ensuing drive, he broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown and set a new career long. In the first half, the Saints totaled … yards rushing.
However, that’s when the Saints defense started to crumble. They allowed the 49ers to drive for a field goal and then a 65-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Vance McDonald. What was a 21-3 Saints lead early quickly became just a 31-20 advantage after a late Wil Lutz field goal.
The third quarter began where the game left off in the first half, with San Francisco moving the ball at will. But the momentum changing play of the day came from the Saints defense. Nate Stupar forced and recovered a fumble at the goal line and prevented what was sure to be a 49ers touchdown.
Even though San Francisco would add another three points with a Phil Dawson field goal on their next drive, they wouldn’t find the endzone again. In fact, the only touchdown of the second half came on an incredible catch by Michael Thomas.
Drew Brees finished completing 28-of-39 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns. But the real eye-opener in the stat line is at running back. Ingram averaged more than 10 yards per carry with 158 yards to go with along with one touchdown, and Hightower was quite effective himself. The veteran carried the ball 23 times for 87 yards and one score.
The Saints return home to host the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
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