The 49ers couldn’t have scripted a better opening drive. A 13-play, 75-yard drive that took over seven minutes off the clock was capped off with a short touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk. For the second game in a row, Daniel Brunskill and Tom Compton starting at center and guard. Early on, their blocking was key for the 49ers running game.
On defense, the Niners made a switch at safety as Tarvarius Moore, as he started over Marcell Harris. New Orleans went three-and-out on their first drive. After a long kick return on the next drive, the Saints couldn’t take advantage of a short field. They had to settle for three after Moore forced a tackle for loss. San Francisco scored on their second possession, making the score 10-3.
From there, this game went off the rails.
Trent Taylor called for a fair catch but didn’t catch the ball, which ended up touching one of the 49ers, and the Saints recovered. Kentavius Street appeared to have a sack that would have forced a 3rd & forever for the Saints. Instead, the refs said Street landed on Drew Brees, and New Orleans was awarded a first down. The defense could not hold, and a touchdown by the Saints tied the score at 10.
The 49ers drove the ball into Saints territory on their next possession, thanks to Kendrick Bourne getting the job done after the catch on a third down. The offense had an opportunity to convert on 4th & 1, but a Jerick McKinnon run up the middle was stuffed in the backfield. Shocking, I know. New Orleans had a lot of defenders up the middle, and they looked ready. It didn’t help that Colton McKivitz missed a block.
The Saints drove the ball into 49ers territory after a long run by Alvin Kamara. New Orleans punched it in after Fred Warner was picked off on a play, and Kamara caught a short touchdown pass.
The 49ers ran 19 more plays than the Saints and held New Orleans to under 100 total yards in the first half. They had seven more first downs and held the ball for 14 more minutes. They trailed at halftime 17-10—the refs gifted New Orleans points. There’s no doubt about that. San Francisco still had opportunities to move the ball or get stops, but they failed to do either.
After that Street sack, Brees went down. That meant Jameis Winston would see the field. It likely meant we’d see more Taysom Hill in the second half as well. The Saints punted on their first possession.
Defensively, the Saints blitzed their slot cornerback over, and over, and over again. There was no reason for them to stop as it was working each time. Nick Mullens didn’t see the blitz, and the offense couldn’t make New Orleans pay. It seemed easy, as Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was staring at Mullens pre-snap. Those blitzes stalled a few 49ers drives.
The Saints took, and Winston found Kamara and Michael Thomas for two chunk plays, which put New Orleans in San Francisco territory. Javon Kinlaw had his first career sack, Kerry Hyder added one, but D.J. Jones made it all happen. The defensive line was playing hard, and after a third-down stop, New Orleans was gifted a first down after a Warner facemask. That didn’t matter, as the Niners held again and forced the Saints to settle for a field goal. That made it 20-10.
On the next 49ers’ possession, the offense went in the wrong direction, and on second down, JaMycal Hasty went down. He looked like he was grabbing his collarbone. In the same play, C.J. Beathard began to warm up. He entered the game on 3rd & 21. The offense ran the same play Emmanuel Sanders scored on last season, but Beathard underthrew him by about 20 yards.
Jimmie Ward had an opportunity for an interception, but the ball went through his hands on the ensuing drive. San Francisco did force a punt, though. The offense never took the field as James muffed the punt. Kamara would go on to score, making it 27-10. Austin Walter came into the game and gave the 49ers some life. A field goal by the offense made it 27-13.
A Taysom Hill fumble gave the 49ers life, but Mullens underthrew a pass to Bourne in the end zone that resulted in an interception. It was precisely the same route Jimmy Garoppolo underthrew to Bourne Week 1 near the end of the game against Arizona. Turnovers, mistakes, and failing to capitalize cost the Niners today.