NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints are now 7-2 after surviving a weird game against the 49ers. The game was riddled with injury on both sides of the ball, which most notably saw Drew Brees (ribs) not starting the second half in favor of Jameis Winston. Both sides lost several players, but it was definitely more noticeable on the Saints side. Regardless, New Orleans prevailed 27-13 and have won six straight.
The Saints won the opening coin toss, and deferred to the second half to let the 49ers start out with the football. San Francisco moved down the field with relative ease, capturing the game's first points after going 75 yards in 13 plays that took 7:17 off the clock. New Orleans could not stop the 49ers on 3rd down, while a costly 15-yard personal foul penalty on C.J. Gardner-Johnson also helped move them deep into Saints territory. Nick Mullens would find Brandon Aiyuk for an easy 4-yard score to capture a 7-0 lead with 7:43 left in the first quarter.
New Orleans would go 3-and-out on their first offensive series, as Drew Brees couldn't connect with Michael Thomas on a 3rd-and-5 to pick up the first down. Andrus Peat would get injured on the play and go to the medical tent, but would appear to be okay. The Saints defense ended up forcing a 3-and-out, but would surrender the ball right back to the 49ers after Deonte Harris muffed the punt, setting San Francisco up in Saints territory.
San Francisco would threaten, getting the ball down to the Saints' 6-yard line to set up a 1st-and-Goal situation after Nick Mullens dropped a dime to Ross Dwelley. On the play, David Onyemata was flagged for roughing the passer. New Orleans saw its defense tighten, forcing a negative play on 2nd-and-Goal, while Demario Davis had a 9-yard sack on Mullens to force a field goal. Regardless, the damage was done as the 49ers put together an 8-play, 35-yard drive that resulted in a 10-0 lead over New Orleans after the successful 32-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
Deonte Harris would make up for his mistake on the ensuing kickoff, taking it 75 yards to put the Saints in good field position. However, New Orleans would end up going backwards on their drive, losing 6 yards. Brees couldn't connect with Jared Cook down the seam on 2nd down, and the intended short pass to Alvin Kamara on 3rd-and-16 never stood a chance. Thankfully, Wil Lutz would put the first points on the board for the Saints, connecting from 49 yards out to make it 10-3 at the 13:48 mark of the second quarter.
The 49ers and Saints wouldn't be able to do much with their next offensive series, with New Orleans catching a huge break after punting back to San Francisco. The ball would hit a 49ers player with Marquez Callaway being right there to recover the ball and give New Orleans a short field to work with. It didn't start pretty, but a big personal foul penalty on Kentavius Street moved the ball to the 49ers' 11-yard line, and eventually Alvin Kamara would take it in on 3rd-and-Goal from the 2-yard line to tie things up with 6:48 until halftime.
After a great special teams play by Zack Baun, San Francisco would have their work cut out for them at their own 14-yard line. They'd march down the field and be in a 3rd-and-1 situation in New Orleans territory after the two-minute warning, but would be turned away on 3rd down and then by David Onyemata on their 4th-and-1 attempt to give Drew Brees a chance to work in the two-minute drill.
The Saints did not disappoint, going 57 yards in 6 plays that was capped off by a Brees to Kamara 3-yard touchdown. On the play, Brees actually fumbled the snap but recovered, while Kamara was unaccounted for and wide open for the easy score. Also on the drive, a brutal head shot on Tre'Quan Smith left him motionless on the field for a little bit. The cart was called for, but Smith thankfully got to his feet and walked off under his own power, as he was ruled out for the rest of the game with a concussion.
The Saints would get the ball back after stopping San Francisco, and were content on kneeling out the half with a 17-10 lead.
An interesting development happened going into the first offensive series of the half for New Orleans, as Jameis Winston started at quarterback in place of Drew Brees. Brees was on the sidelines with a helmet on, but was not playing. The Saints drive resulted in a Thomas Morstead punt to start the half. We'd later learn that Brees had a rib injury, and was deemed questionable to return. Meanwhile, the Saints defense would catch a huge break after the 49ers were threatening, thanks to a Malcolm Jenkins interception. However, they'd do nothing with it as the game stayed 17-10 with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
After another strong defensive series, the Saints would get the ball back and be able to move down the field a good bit with Winston at the helm. Finding Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas certainly helped, as New Orleans would get in a 1st-and-Goal situation at the 49ers' 4-yard line to close out the quarter. Winston would take two sacks to start the fourth quarter, and it seemed like New Orleans was heading for a field goal after a quick pass to Deonte Harris didn't go for much, but a face mask call on the 49ers gave the Saints offense new life, but some misfires by Winston forced them to call on Wil Lutz again to make it 20-10 with 12:15 left in the game.
On the next 49ers offensive series, San Francisco would not be able to do anything with the football, as C.J. Beathard would enter the game on a 3rd-and-21 play. Demario Davis made a huge play right before that to force the 49ers back into a long situation. New Orleans couldn't do anything with their ensuing possession again, and punted the ball back to San Francisco. However, they'd catch another break when the 49ers muffed another punt that was again recovered by Marquez Callaway to set them up for another opportunity. This time, the Saints would capitalize and extend their lead to 27-10 with 7:29 left in the game after Kamara once again rushed for the touchdown.
San Francisco would put points up on the board on their next possession, adding a 40-yard Robbie Gould field goal to cut the Saints lead to 27-13 with 5:54 left. A questionable pass interference call on Janoris Jenkins helped set them up, but Mullens was back at quarterback and helped start the drive with a 27-yard pass and run to Austin Walter.
Looking to close out the game, the Saints turned their attention to the ground game, marching down the field with relative ease behind Latavius Murray and Taysom Hill. However, Hill would cough up the ball at the 49ers 34-yard line to give San Francisco back the ball. The 49ers would move down the field and threaten, but Patrick Robinson made a key interception in the end zone to get the ball back in the hands of the Saints with 2:25 left in the game. New Orleans would run the clock out, improving to 7-2 on the season.
The Saints will host the Falcons in an important NFC South divisional clash in Week 11 before going on the road for three straight weeks, but the bigger concern is the health of the team going into it.