The San Francisco 49ers dealt the New Orleans Saints a serious blow to their playoff hopes, defeating them 31-21 Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Despite an improved defensive effort, the Saints were unable to overcome a couple of big plays and offensive miscues.
The Saints’ defense yielded a season-low 375 yards to the 49ers offense but couldn’t overcome a pair of crucial interceptions by Drew Brees.
Brees was 26 of 41 for 267 yards and three touchdowns, but he threw two interceptions which were returned for touchdowns.
The first occurred late in the second quarter with the Saints leading 14-7.
San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks stepped in front of an underthrown pass from Brees with 22 seconds left in the first half and returned the ball 50 yards for the game-tying score.
The mistakes continued in the third quarter as Donte Whitner intercepted Drew Brees for a 42 yard interception return for a touchdown to put San Francisco up 28-14 and give the 49ers the lead for good.
Darren Sproles had a solid return from his hand injury, catching seven passes for 65 yards, and Lance Moore made a few spectacular grabs, catching three passes for 61 hard-fought yards.
Marques Colston caught four passes for 36 yards and surpassed Deuce McAllister for the most touchdowns in club history with his 56th career touchdown.
Despite the loss, the Saints are still clinging slim playoff hopes.
Thanks to losses by Detroit, Dallas, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Minnesota this week, the Saints remain one game out of the final Wild Card spot and in the hunt for the NFC playoffs.
The Saints will have to right the ship quickly, however, as they head to Atlanta Thursday for a rematch with the 10-1 Falcons.