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Saints escape San Francisco in offensive flurry with 49ers

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It wasn’t all pretty, but Sean Payton’s squad improves to 4-4 after Saints beat 49ers 41-23.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints got back to .500 for the first time in over a year, as they improved to 4-4 after beating the San Francisco 49ers 41-23 on Sunday.

The Saints opened rather uninspired, as their opening drive led to a punt after five plays for 11 yards. Brees opened 0-for-2 to begin, and the 49ers would take advantage to get the game’s first score courtesy of a 49-yard field goal from Phil Dawson.

Drew Brees would come alive, helping the Saints go 83 yards in 10 plays that was capped off by a Tim Hightower rushing touchdown. Brees went 4-for-5 on the drive, and connected with Michael Thomas for 23 yards and Josh Hill for 32 yards on big plays.

The ensuing 49ers offensive drive would end after four plays when Craig Robertson read Colin Kaepernick to pick up the seventh interception of his career. The Saints also benefitted from a horse collar penalty which put them starting at the 49ers 12-yard line. Just five plays later, Brees would find Thomas on a back shoulder fade to put the black and gold ahead 14-3.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Being desperate after moving the ball well on the next drive, the 49ers offense attempted to go for it on 4th and 1 instead of a field goal attempt, but Dennis Allen’s defense stuffed DuJuan Harris to take over on downs. The Saints would make them pay. Sean Payton’s crew would use 6:05 to go 76 yards on 12 plays that was finished off by a 5-yard screen to Mark Ingram to put the Saints up 21-3 midway through the second quarter.

Chip Kelly’s team would answer quickly on their next drive, as the Saints forgot to play defense and let DuJuan Harris go 47 yards for a scoop and score to cut the Saints lead to 21-10. It would be extremely short-lived as Angry Mark Ingram, or Angram, would rattle off a 75-yard run to put the Saints up 28-10. It was the longest Saints run since Deuce McAllister’s 76-yard run in 2003 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

FOX also picked up something funny after the touchdown, which is totally NSFW. You might like this Deadspin one, too.

The 49ers would add a field goal and then the Saints would once again forget about playing defense late in the half, as Kaepernick would find Vance McDonald for a 65-yard touchdown catch and run to cut the lead to 28-20. With less than a minute left, Brees would pilot a 6-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a Wil Lutz field goal to put the Saints up 31-20 by the end of the half. Defense was optional, as the Saints allowed 319 yards while the 49ers allowed 344 yards.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

After an exciting first half, the second half picked up right where it left off. The 49ers would march down the field with little resistance from the Saints defense, but Nathan Stupar would force a fumble and the offense would take over at their own 1-yard line after recovering. Unfortunately, nothing would come of it and the 49ers got the ball back only to drive down the field again to kick another field goal.

The Saints couldn’t capitalize on a decent drive that started on their own 15-yard line, as Lutz would miss a 55-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter. After finally forcing the 49ers offense to their first punt of the day, the Saints would go 77 yards on 7 plays that ended with a ridiculous Michael Thomas touchdown grab.

Lutz would add 41-yard field goal to put the Saints ahead 41-23, and in garbage time the 49ers saw their drive end when a botched center exchange to Kaepernick would be fumbled and Kenny Vaccaro would recover to take over with 6:05 in the game. The Saints would run down the clock, and the 49ers would give it right back as Vaccaro would force a Harris fumble to give the Saints their fourth takeaway of the day with less than 3 minutes to go. Brees and company would run out the clock.

As the Saints travel home, it certainly sets up an interesting Week 10 home showdown with the Denver Broncos.