Saints rally past 49ers, 35-27
By By Richard Dark / EMG sports writer
Oct. 21, 2002
NEW ORLEANS These aren't your father's New Orleans Saints.
And to accurately illustrate that, one needs to look no further than Sunday's opponent the San Francisco 49ers. So many times in the past history of these teams the Saints were the ones finishing the game in a weak fashion.
On this day, however, the error-plagued final minutes were a product of the team that so many times has dominated New Orleans. Not the case this time. A pair of crucial fourth-quarter turnovers by San Francisco helped propel the Saints (6-1) to a scintillating come-from-behind 35-27 victory over the 49ers in front of a rockin' Louisiana Superdome crowd of 67,980.
To the Saints credit, that's exactly what they did.
It was a Wild West shootout
befitting of the two ex-NFC West mates. But the division alignment change almost goes hand-in-hand to one glaring difference between this current group and the Saints teams of old. The ability to score at will.
Quarterback Aaron Brooks' 1-yard sneak with 1:56 left extended the smallest of leads and it capped a span of just over ten minutes that thrilled Saints fans, who witnessed their team outscore its longtime rivals by a count of 21-3 during that time.
The opportune word is poise and the offense had boatloads of it. The Saints were 9-of-14 on third down conversions and save for the drive that ended in a Michael Lewis fumble, New Orleans scored every time it touched the ball.
Key in that was the arm of Brooks, who turned in a sparkling 23-of-35 effort that included 253 yards, a trio of touchdowns and no interceptions. Lena native Deuce McAllister kept up his unmitigated assault on the NFC rushing lead, by piling up 139 yards on 21 carries. He also snagged five passes for 35 yards. Brooks also rushed the ball four times for 26 yards. "I am a big guy and by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, you can look on some of (the opponents) faces and see they are tired," McAllister said of his penchant for busting open long runs late.
Total offense by both teams was a wash, with New Orleans edging out SF 422-418. On the day, the Saints held the ball only two seconds longer than their opponents.
Long scoring drives by both teams were the order of the day. Except the one that mattered the most to the Saints. And although it wasn't the one that gave them the lead for good, it gave the confidence they needed to finish the game strong.
Horn was right there two plays later, hauling in a 20-yarder for his second TD grab of the day which provided a 25-24 lead. But the 2-point conversion attempt by Brooks was also no good.
Cortez gave the Niners back the lead with a 40-yard field goal with 8:35 to go.
Horn ran the same route on his first score, beating Ole Miss alumnus Ronnie Heard for the 10-yarder. McAllister's 2-point conversion dive appeared to be good, but was ruled otherwise, leaving the Saints down five at the 12:30 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Saints opened the half by hogging the third quarter with a 15-play output that stalled inside the red zone, but Carney nailed his second field goal of the day, a 31-yarder, to pull New Orleans to within four.
49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia who totaled a 23-of-39 output with 275 yards a TD and a pick used his elusiveness to guide SF on an efficient 11-play, 66-yard drive, capped by Hearst's 8-yard touchdown blast to put the 49ers up 11 with 1:10 to go in the quarter.
From then on, the Saints seemed to slowly regain control.
That wasn't the case early in the first half, as the Niners made it look easy on their second scoring drive. After running back Garrison Hearst dove in from two yards out to give his team a 14-7 lead. Deuce broke loose for a nifty 53-yard run on the Saints first play of the drive, but the Lewis fumble was answered with an 11-play drive and a Juan Cortez field goal.
After the visitors opened the day with an impressive 12-play, 77-yard drive that consumed nearly six minutes, New Orleans pieced together a nice production of their own, moving downfield behind a big kickoff return by NFC Special Teams Player of the Week Michael Lewis.
Lewis also picked up 15 yards on a key reverse to keep the drive alive. McAllister finished it off with a 4-yard TD catch, his first of the season, to tie the game at seven.