Saints Lose Gut Wrencher To 49ers In Overtime
For a few brief seconds Sunday, the soldout Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans let out a joyous cry. Star Saints tight end Jimmy Graham leaped up over several San Francisco 49er defenders (pictured above) on the final play of regulation, coming down with a game-winning hail mary reception.
The joyous screams quickly faded as officials called Graham for an offensive pass interference, sending the 24-24 game to overtime. Replay shows Graham giving San Francisco defender Parish Cox a push-off, albeit a very light one. However, Cox flew to the turf, selling a flop that would make former NBA center Vlade Divac proud.
"It wasn't a push-off," said Graham. "Guys grab me everywhere on the field and I put literally two fingers on someone and get called for it."
Sunday's 27-24 loss for the Saints (4-5) was the fourth defeat this season for New Orleans in a game they led with less than two minutes to go in regulation.
After letting San Francisco jump out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter, aided by a Drew Brees interception, New Orleans slowly chipped away, taking their first lead of the game on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Graham with 1:52 left. It put the Saints up 24-21, after trailing 21-10 at halftime.
After several 49er drops, the Saints were in position to win the game as San Francisco faced a 4th and 10 at their own 22. 49er quarterback Colin Kapernick rolled to his right, buying enough time to heave a 51 yard pass across the field to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. The play setup an eventual San Francisco 49er field goal. Five plays later, Graham was called for pass interference, and the game went to overtime.
New Orleans won the toss, putting together a decent 8 play drive into San Francisco territory at the 43, before electing to punt, rather than go for it on 4 and 3.
San Francisco drove past midfield, but were turned away by the Saints defense. Several plays later, 49er linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked Brees from behind, knocking the ball loose for a critical turnover. On the next play, 49er kicker Phil Dawson knocked in the game-winner.
"Obviously it's a tough loss," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. "We'll watch the (game) film and try to put this one behind us as soon as possible."
Brees' three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) were costly. His first interception was quickly turned into a touchdown by the 49er offense. His second interception came late in the 2nd quarter, forcing it to Graham in the end zone when he was triple covered. Had he held it, at the least, the Saints could've attempted a field goal at the end of the first half. His final turnover, the fumble caused by Brooks, obviously helped San Francisco seal the deal.
"The situation (to force it) at the end of the first half was my decision," explained Brees. "It was the wrong decision."
Following that interception, a faint sound of boos could be heard in the Superdome.
"I would've booed myself too," said Brees.
For the game, he was 28-47 for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 picks and a fumble.
Graham was his favorite target, reeling in 10 catches for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks finished with 5 catches for 90 yards and a score.
Running back Mark Ingram continues to run well, earning his 3rd consecutive game of 100 or more rushing yards, carrying the rock 27 times for 120 yards. It marks the first 3 game stretch of 100 rushing yard games for a Saints running back since Deuce McAllister had 9 consecutive games of hitting the century mark back in 2003.
Despite the 4-5 record, the Saints still sit atop the NFC South, leading the Carolina Panthers (3-5-1) by a game. Carolina plays at Philadelphia tomorrow night.
The Saints remain at home next week, hosting the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) at noon on Sunday.