Saints’ kick tips 49ers
Garrett Hartley kicked a 37-yard field goal that barely fluttered through as time expired after Drew Brees set it up with a 30-yard completion to Marques Colston and the Saints spoiled the San Francisco 49ers’ home opener with a 25-22 victory Monday night.
San Francisco’s Frank Gore ran for a 7-yard touchdown with 1:19 to play, and Vernon Davis made a close-call catch at the goal line for the tying 2-point conversion. The play was initially called no good, but the 49ers (0-2) challenged the ruling and won.
The defending Super Bowl champion Saints (2-0), who relied on their defense most of the game, got the ball back at the 30 with 1:14 left and the wind at their back. Brees hit Colston with a pass that put the Saints on the 18 with 18 seconds left. The 49ers watched anxiously as Hartley’s kick just made it.
“We’ve stayed with the mindset we are the hunter, not the hunted,” Brees said moments after the thrilling finish.
Reggie Bush caught a 6-yard TD pass in his first game since giving back his 2005 Heisman Trophy won while with Southern California. The NCAA punished USC after concluding that Bush and his family took money and gifts from sports agents while Bush played for the Trojans. Bush was helped off the field with a right leg injury with 6:58 left and then was taken to the locker room on a cart.
Brees hit David Thomas for a 3-yard score that put New Orleans ahead late in the third quarter, and Tracy Porter’s interception at the 10-yard line preserved the lead until Gore’s late run.
“They played really well,” Brees said. “You’ve got take your hat off to them; they played hard.”
San Francisco outgained the Saints in yards 417-287 but beat itself with turnovers.
Roman Harper intercepted a pass by Alex Smith at the 26 in the first quarter. Malcolm Jenkins recovered Delanie Walker’s fumble at the 3 just before halftime as the Niners failed to capitalize on opportunities.
“We came in with the mindset that we were going to win the turnover battle, and we did that decisively,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
On a festive evening at Candlestick Park in which the 49ers retired Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s No. 80 jersey at halftime, the Niners looked little like the championship teams Rice starred on in the 1980s and 90s.
Gore provided the highlight, running for 112 yards and catching a 12-yard touchdown pass from Smith.
New Orleans’ defense shined for the second straight game in the national spotlight, the Saints’ first game since kicking off the NFL season in prime time on Sept. 9 with a 14-9 victory over the Vikings. The Saints’ offense looked far from top form but still found a way to beat the Niners for the sixth straight time.
San Francisco helped out by committing the three turnovers and snapping a ball out of the end zone for a safety on the opening series.
New Orleans is 2-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.