With a 31-21 win over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers showed with their defense and new starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick that they are contenders to be feared. The big story heading into the game was Kaepernick starting at QB despite Alex Smith being healthy and cleared to play. Even though Kaepernick’s solid start was talked about after the win, the 49ers beat the Saints mainly because of the defense shutting down Drew Brees and his offense.
In a span of just under four minutes of game time from the end of the second quarter to the third quarter, the 49ers defense scored two touchdowns off of Brees’ two interceptions. Sandwiched in between the two interceptions was a scoring touchdown drive to open the second-half by the 49ers offense. Less than four minutes into the second-half San Francisco had a 28-14 lead they would never relinquish.
Last week against the Bears, the Niners defense was relentless with 6 sacks, 5.5 of which were recorded by Aldon Smith. There’s no mistake the defense was dominant but they went up against an injured and terrible Bears offensive line. Against the Saints, the Niners D faced a slightly better O-line and was equally impressive by sacking Brees five times and forcing him to throw two picks.
The first interception was by game MVP Ahmad Brooks who ran it back 50 yards to tie the game at 14-14. In a linebacking corps that includes Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith, Brooks is often overlooked. But there was no denying his performance that also included four tackles and 1.5 sacks. Going forward, if opposing offenses are looking for holes in the 49ers linebackers or a player in the defensive front seven to exploit, they won’t find one. At this point in the season the only thing that will stop the Niners defense is an injury.
Brees was forced into mistakes by the defense that he normally does not make. The Niners D made him look very un-Brees like with him throwing passes high and off the mark like his second interception that was ran back for a touchdown. In the third quarter, safety Donte Whitner picked off a Brees pass that was tipped by receiver Marques Colston and he was able to run it back for the defenses second TD of the game. The pass was doomed from the beginning of the play as Brees was under duress as he went to throw, which resulted in the pass sailing over Colston’s hands. The interception was made possible by safety Dashon Goldson who undercut Colston as he was trying to make the catch, which allowed the football to land into Whitner’s hands for the pick.
In a strange twist, Kaepernick looked more Drew Brees like passing for the 49ers than Brees in the game. Throughout the game, despite being pressured in the pocket, he was poised and confident in his throws. Especially when he had to scramble, extending plays and finding open receivers on the run. Remarkably, he was not sacked. All game he was on target with short and deep throws that were fired like lasers. In only his second career start, Kap completed 16-of-25 passes for 231 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also had 27 rushing yards on six carries and one touchdown.
For everything that went well with Kaepernick and the offense, the most impressive feat was the long time-killing scoring drive in the fourth quarter that put the 49ers up by 10 points. Kap showed patience and poise on the nearly 9-and-a-half minute drive that ended with a David Akers field goal for a 31-21 Niners lead. One way to beat Brees and the Saints is to limit the time they are on the field. In real time Brees was on the sideline for almost 30 minutes.
Oh yeah, and Kap did all of this with a deafening Saints crowd inside the Superdome that was loud all game.