On a sunny day in the Bay Area, the National Football League saw a dominant performance by the New Orleans Saints over the San Francisco 49ers. The Saints continued their forward trajectory while the 49ers are still in a quagmire and do not seem to have any solutions to the mess they find themselves in.
After being dropped in the previous game, Mark Ingram responded to that and had a fantastic game for the Saints with some strong running and great hands to get himself two touchdowns and no turnovers.
Running backs are the story of the first half
Not many expected the running backs of either team to be as influential as they were in teh first half but, bar one touchdown, all big plays were from running backs. For the Saints, Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower combined for a one-two punch that the 49ers defense had no answer for. Hightower ended the half with 53 rushing yards and one touchdown while Ingram had two touchdowns and 93 yards. Ingram also had the longest rushing play that the Saints have put together in quite some time as he ran for 75 yards to score his second of the day.
On top of that, Drew Brees was finding targets at will and ended the first half with two touchdowns, one to Ingram and one to wide receiver Michael Thomas, and 198 passing yards. The Saints defense's lack of pace was exposed at times by the 49ers but due to the strength of their offense, the Saints went into the half leading by eleven points.
For the 49ers, journeyman running back Dujuan Harris was the story of their offense. After being cut from multiple teams around the league, Harris was signed by the 49ers recently and had a great showing in the first half. Harris had a big catch-and-run play that lead to a 47 yard touchdown and also kept the 49ers offensive drives going whenever he got the ball. His pace and power also helped expose the lack of pace within the Saints secondary but even with his good play, the 49ers could not hold back the Saints' offense.
Colin Kaepernick continued his stint as the starting quarterback for the home side and although he had two touchdowns going into half time, one to Harris and one to Vance McDonald on a 65-yard touchdown run, he also had a pass intercepted by Saints linebacker Craig Robertson. This did not help the 49ers defense who had an abysmal first half and were seemingly unable to stop the Saints from marching down the field time and time again.
The Saints close the game out in the second half
Ingram and Hightower continued where they left off in the first half but it was the play of the Saints' defense that iced this game. Linebackers Cameron Jordan and Von Bell were able to get to Kaepernick on one occasion each but the pass rush continued to force Kapernick into making inaccurate throws that would help the Saints get to many three-and-outs in the second half. The Saints' defense also came up with three fumble recoveries, one each from Bell, linebacker Nate Stupar and safety Kenny Vacarro which allowed the defense to keep the 49ers at just 23 points by the end of the game.
On the other side of the ball, Ingram had a banner day, finishing with 158 overall rushing yards while Hightower may have not got to 100 rushing yards but he also helped the Saints dominate the game with their running game. Drew Brees also had an excellent game as he finished with three touchdowns, 323 passing yards and a 72% completion average. The pick of the game's touchdowns was surely Michael Thomas' second of the day which came in the fourth quarter.
After marching down the field again, Brees found Thomas in the end zone on a 32 yard touchdown pass which Thomas climbed over his defender to catch and then hang on as he landed on the ground. That touchdown epitomized the Saints' overall dominant performance which saw them reach 4-4 for the season and second in the NFC South.
As for the 49ers, they fall to 1-7 for the season and an awful start to the season does not seem to be getting any better. If something does not change quickly for the Bay Area team, they will finish with one of the worst season records they have had on over 10 years. Head coach Chip Kelly has a lot of work to do.