The Saints were leading 14-7 and driving to add to their lead before halftime, but Ahmad Brooks, the 49ers speedy linebacker, stepped in front of a Drew Brees pass and raced 50 yards for the tying touchdown.
Saints coach Joe Vitt didn’t want to admit that was the turning point in a game the Saints were dominating, but it was.
“I’ll review the film,” Vitt said in his postgame news conference. “I’m not going to sit here right now and say there was a turning point in the game one way or the other. We’re judged on 60 minutes of how we play and our body of work. We didn’t get it done today.”
Quarterback Drew Brees had an uncharacteristically bad day. He threw two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns.
“That can’t happen, especially the first one, the one right there at the end of the first half where you’re trying to go down and get something for your team,” Brees said. “You certainly can’t give it to them inside of 30 seconds and let them get a easy one.”
Brees’ bad day came on the defense’s best outing of the season. San Francisco totaled 375 yards, but was the first opponent the Saints held to fewer than 400 yards this season. The defense didn’t have any sacks, but it recorded an interception and only gave up 17 points — an admirable effort by a much-maligned unit that is showing more cohesiveness each week.
“The yards we gave up in the running game in the first half was a tribute to their quarterback making plays, breaking containment,” Vitt said. “We did a better job today. We did a good job of fitting up the run. We certainly improved and that was good to see.”
Late in the game the Saints still had a chance. Down seven, 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss made perhaps the biggest play of the game when he prevented a Malcolm Jenkins interception by nearly tackling him in the end zone. Offensive pass interference wasn’t called, and the 49ers kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 10. That was it. They never looked back.
The Saints had a chance to make up ground in the chase for an NFC Wild Card berth with the Seahawks, Vikings and Buccaneers all losing on Sunday. Instead of being in the thick things, the Saints are still on the outside looking in with a huge Thursday night game against the 10-1 Falcons looming.
The Saints entered Sunday’s game with very little room for error. Now they have no room for error. They have to win out, finish 10-6 and hope for the best. I don’t think 9-7 gets them into the playoffs.
One more loss and it’s likely another lost season of the Drew Brees era.