After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over 49ers

After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over 49ers
Brees didn't return for the second half of the contest. (Pool photo) (Source: Pool Photo)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Brees banged up, takes himself out

Let’s start with the play. At the 8:52 mark of the second quarter on second and ten, Brees dropped back...then got dropped by Kentavius Street. Street badly beat first-round pick Cesar Ruiz to drive Brees into the ground (which drew a flag).

Sean Fazende and Deuce McAllister breakdown the Saints' win over the 49ers

Brees went out of the game for a play, only to return to finish the series. Then, he was back on the field for the two-minute drive where he led the team to another touchdown. But, according to him, was feeling terrible. The inactivity of halftime caused Brees to tighten, and when he went back out to warm up in the second half, he knew he wouldn’t be effective. So, he pulled himself out of the game.

Sean Payton said it may have been the first time in 15 years Brees had ever gone to him and told him that he couldn’t go.

The question now is how long will he be out? He’ll have an MRI done to know the severity of the injury.

Trying to read Brees' body language after the game was hard. He seemed concerned about his injury, but was more stoic. Last year, when he injured his thumb, you could sense the despair in his voice. When asked if he could clarify if it his ribs he injured, he said yes, but also used the word ‘cumulative.’

The Saints will just have to wait it out, and manage as best as they can if they have to go a stretch of games without him like they did last year.

Take Two: Defense dazzles

The 49ers went 75 yards on 13 plays and took over seven minutes off the clock to open the game with a touchdown. They followed with a field goal to go up, 10-0. But from then on, the Saints defense dug in and dominated.

They finished the game with 11 plays behind the line of scrimmage, and shut down the 49ers rushing attack with just 49 yards on 25 carries, and picked Nick Mullens off twice.

DeMario Davis played one of his best games as a Saint. Whether in coverage, blitzing or stopping the run, Davis was everywhere. David Onyemata just might be the Saints most underrated player. He stuffed Jerrick McKinnon for a two-yard loss on that fourth and short where the 49ers were driving late in the second quarter that set up the two-minute drill. He also batted down a pass in the second half. Malcolm Jenkins has also settled in with an interception and could have had another.

This side of the ball is starting to play much better football. They’ve limited game-changing penalties and coverage busts.

Take Three: Kamara for MVP

Alvin Kamara will not win the NFL MVP this year, but he should at least be in the conversation. He’s the best player on the Saints roster right now. It’s tough to think of where this team might be without him.

What he’s doing every week is remarkable. Even early on when the 49ers were keying on him, Kamara found a way to fight through it and once again be a force. He led the team with seven receptions for 83 yards and scored all three touchdowns.

He also showed his heart as a true teammate when he ran over to comfort C.J. Gardner Johnson when he was injured on a play.

Take Four : More Injuries

The Saints went into this game clearly the more healthy team, but they left it quite banged up.

Aside from Brees, the biggest injuries were Tre’Quan Smith and Josh Hill, who both suffered concussions. Payton said not having both of those players impacted his play-calling late because of their effectiveness blocking in the run game.

Marshon Lattimore, Andrus Peat, Gardner-Johnson, Terron Armstead, and Malcom Brown all left at some point in the game. Most of them returned, but it goes to show how teams must navigate in the middle of games at times.

Take Five: Other observations

  • I’m not sure I’ve ever seen four muffed punts in a game. The Saints had two but were fortunate to recover one of them. The 49ers had two that were recovered by Marquez Callaway.
  • Given the circumstances, Jameis Winston did okay filling in for Brees in the second half. He completed his first five passes including a wheel route to Kamara, and led the Saints to ten points. Of course, he wasn’t perfect. He misfired on four of his last five passes, and took back-to-back sacks that killed a touchdown opportunity. On the second sack, Winston missed an open Deonte Harris. He was also nearly picked off. Should Brees be out, it will be interesting to see how Winston would look with a full week to prepare.
  • No easing in for Kwon Alexander. The Saints started him at weakside linebacker, and appeared to play him just about every defensive snap. He finished the game with four tackles.
  • The Saints gained less than 250 yards of total offense Sunday, and only ran three plays in the first quarter. They also went 2/12 on third downs.
  • Other than his foolish hit on the first drive, Gardner-Johnson had a great day. He aggressively attacked the 49ers running backs, and was very effective as a blitzer.
  • The first thing I noticed when I got to the game Sunday was my walk from the parking lot to the Dome. For the first time all season, it didn’t feel eerily silent. The 6,000 fans in attendance made a difference in the overall energy of the game.
  • At 7-2, the Saints are tied for the best record in the NFC.

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