After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to 49ers

Drew Brees accounted for 4 TDs in the first half.
Drew Brees accounted for 4 TDs in the first half.(Mark Lagrange | WVUE)
Updated: Dec. 8, 2019 at 11:53 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take One: Heavyweight Fight

The 48-46 Saints’ loss was tough, but the overwhelming sense leaving the Superdome was this was a clash between two of the NFC’s best. Both teams played like Super Bowl contenders. Drew Brees even said the game felt like a heavyweight fight with each side trading punches all day long.

The loss stings for the Saints because the one seed in the playoffs is outside of their control. They can still get it, but they’ll need some help. However, should both teams take care of business the rest of the regular season, I wouldn’t be shocked if both teams meet up again in January.

Take Two: Tackling the fake punt controversy

Who knew that a player could not be interfered with on a fake punt? Now the entire Who Dat Nation is well aware after Taysom Hill’s fake punt pass to Tre’Quan Smith. Smith was clearly interfered with downfield but as the officials pointed out, there can be no pass interference on the wide receiver on a fake punt. Smith looked like he was held as well which could have been called but wasn’t.

The reaction from the crowd was understandable. But the truth is, the controversy masked the reality about the play: it was a bad decision by Sean Payton to even call for the fake. For starters, it was 4th & 18, it wasn’t like they needed just a few yards to make the first down. Second, they lined up Hill up at punter, tipping off from the jump that it was a fake. Third, it was a relatively low percentage throw. Even without interference, that’s not an easy completion to make in that scenario.

The score was 35-33 at the time of the fake. The 49ers took over at their 45-yard line the following drive and scored a touchdown to go up 42-33 midway through the fourth quarter.

Take Three: Shanahan shines

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was brilliant Sunday calling plays for San Francisco. He kept Dennis Allen guessing all game long. He opened with five passes on their team’s first six plays when everyone thought he would try to establish the vaunted rushing attack. That drive resulted in a touchdown.

He used trickery when he dialed up a reverse pass from Emmanuel Sanders to Raheem Mostert for a touchdown and even borrowed from Payton’s playbook when he called for the fullback option pitch.

He clearly had a strong feel for Allen’s tendency to get aggressive and combatted it with constant misdirection that led to multiple big plays. The injuries at linebacker contributed to that as well.

At halftime, the 49ers were averaging nearly 15 yards PER PLAY.

In the end, Shanahan’s offense finished with 48 points, 516 total yards and 162 rushing yards.

Take Four: Drew Brees deals

It’s a shame that such a tough loss came on a day when Drew Brees was truly magnificent. Nine was surgical Sunday and absolutely carved up the NFL’s top ranked pass defense. He came out of the gate on fire and never really slowed down. He finished with 349 yards, five touchdowns and one touchdown leap.

When he got the ball with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter needing 76 yards and touchdown to retake the lead, there was little doubt he would get the job done. Brees did exactly that in seven plays. When he connected with Smith, that looked like the game winner. The only problem was the 53 seconds remaining on the clock. Brees could only watch as Garoppolo got the 49ers in field goal range to win the game.

For some reason, there seemed to be a bit of negativity surrounding the Saints offense heading into Sunday. The complaints were more first world problems from a fan base that’s gotten a bit spoiled over the years than any real issues. But just in case anyone needed a reminder, this offense, and this quarterback, is still very capable of big time performances.

Take Five: Other observations

  • Speaking of that game-winning 49ers drive, it was set up by a 4th & 2 completion to George Kittle. Kittle beat Gardner-Johnson on a little out route. Then, he made a run for the ages when he violently got the 49ers all the way down to the Saints 14-yard line. CJGJ was beat on the route and dove at Kittle’s feet but missed the tackle. Marcus Williams first made contact with Kittle at the 48 yard-line but did not bring him down until the 28. Williams’ facemask penalty added 15 more yards. Had the tackle been made near where the initial contact was made, the game may not have finished the way it did.
  • Speaking of Gardner-Johnson, the unnecessary roughness penalty on him was a terrible call. It appeared the official reacted to Kyle Juszczyk’s awkward landing after the hit, but Gardner-Johnson led with his shoulder. It was a huge third down call that would have forced a field goal. Instead, the 49ers scored a touchdown just a couple of plays later.
  • Payton said after the game that he went for two on the second touchdown of the game because they got the ball on the one yard-line after the penalty. Brees said the play didn’t work because the 49ers misaligned and had an extra player on the side they were running too. In that scenario, usually they take a timeout if they don’t get a look they like. They didn’t on that play and it was stuffed.
  • Alvin Kamara is in a funk. There’s no other way to put it. It’s obvious in his body language that he’s frustrated. His second half fumble came right after the Saints forced a 49ers punt and set up a 49ers touchdown that put them up, 35-30. Kamara somehow has to regain his mojo. He’s too important to this offense.
  • Jared Cook was on his way to having a big day before being knocked out of the game after his second touchdown catch. I know Cook dealt with drops last week, but he’s also become a Brees favorite. He’s making the ‘wow’ plays the Saints signed him to make.
  • It was interesting to see how many Saints fans sold their tickets to people who ended up wearing red and gold inside the dome Sunday. There’s no way the high amount 49ers fans were all a part of their allotment given to the visiting team. I understand how lucrative selling tickets can be but for a game as big as this one, it was surprising to see how many Saints fans decided to sell and how many visiting fans made their way to the game.

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