Colin Kaepernick completed a 51-yard pass on fourth down to sustain a tying drive in the final minutes of regulation, Ahmad Brooks sacked and stripped Drew Brees in overtime, and Phil Dawson kicked a 35-yard field goal to cap San Francisco’s stirring 27-24 victory over New Orleans on Sunday.
The victory snapped a two-game skid for the Niners (5-4) and marked the first home loss for the Saints (4-5) in more than a season.
New Orleans had won 11 straight in the Superdome — 20 straight at home in games coached by Sean Payton, who was suspended in 2012. It looked like that streak would continue after New Orleans erased an 11-point halftime deficit.
The Saints nearly won on the final play of the fourth quarter, too. Brees heaved a long toss that Jimmy Graham caught in the end zone, but he was called for pass interference after shoving defensive back Perrish Cox.
Brooks’ decisive blow on a sack of Brees had to feel like poetic justice to the Niners’ linebacker. His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a vicious sack and strip in the Superdome a year ago allowed the Saints to pull out a late comeback victory in these teams’ previous meeting.
This time, Brooks’ play set up Dawson’s winning kick came with 5:14 remaining in overtime.
Brees was intercepted twice, but also passed for three scores, the last to Graham to give the Saints a 24-21 lead with 1:52 left in regulation.
New Orleans’ defense, which sacked Kaepernick four times, dominated nearly the entire second half, allowing the Saints to take a brief lead on a pair of touchdowns by Graham.
Brees spun away from blitzers Michael Wilhoite and Eric Reid before finding Graham for an 11-yard TD that cut the Niners’ lead to 21-17 in the third quarter. He then marched New Orleans 80 yards in 12 plays, hitting Marques Colston on fourth down along the way, before finding Graham on a quick pass to the right side to give the Saints a late lead.
Kaepernick was facing a fourth-and-10 when he rolled to his right to buy time, spotted Michael Crabtree deep down field and unloaded his game-saving pass to the Saints’ 27 to set up Dawson’s game-tying field goal from 45 yards with 44 seconds left.
Kaepernick finished 14 of 32 for 210 yards. Anquan Boldin had six catches for 95 yards. Brees finished 28 of 47 for 292 yards, including 10 connections with Graham for 76 yards.
Desperate to change its fortunes, San Francisco dominated early, starting with Antoine Bethea’s interception, which set up Frank Gore’s 4-yard touchdown run around the left side.
San Francisco took a 14-0 lead on Carlos Hyde’s 9-yard run, capping a drive extended by Kaepernick’s 19-yard scramble.
New Orleans responded with Shayne Graham’s 40-yard field goal and Brees’ 31-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. But the Niners answered with Kaepernick’s 15-yard scoring pass that Boldin caught in tight coverage by Keenan Lewis, as the pair crashed down along the sideline.
Late in the half, Tyrunn Walker sacked and stripped Kaepernick, and Cameron Jordan recovered, giving New Orleans a chance to close the gap. Brees tried to squeeze a pass into Graham with three defenders in the area, and Chris Culliver intercepted to maintain the Niners’ 21-10 lead at halftime.
Source: The AP