Saints their own worst enemy in defeat


Saints their own worst enemy in defeat


SAN FRANCISCO -- The finality floated through the New Orleans locker room like a bad smell or, like a bad dream.Twice, the Saints' high-octane had put wooden stakes straight through the hearts of the 49ers. Late in the fourth quarter. And twice the 49ers pulled them out, licked them and threw them to the side."It's hard when you get that close and all of a sudden it slips away," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "It's difficult."49ers, 36. Saints, 32. But that only told part of the story.Because as the finality came to fruition for the Saints, it was especially hard to take for their record-setting quarterback. Consider: in 16 regular-season games, New Orleans lost five fumbles. Total. Against the 49ers, they lost three fumbles. And Drew Brees was picked off twice."The fact that we could turn the ball over five times and still have a chance to win is remarkable," said Brees, combing the ruins of the Saints' latest underachieving finish for something, anything positive to get him through the flight home."(The 49ers have) a big, tough physical defense and after you make a catch, they light you up."Indeed. But be sure of this -- the Saints were their own uncharacteristic worst enemy on a day in which they twice seemed to overcome their own ineptitude. Mind you, winning the turnover battle was seen as the only way the 49ers could compete with Brees, who threw for an NFL single season-record 5,476 yards this season.And the Saints obliged with four turnovers in the first half alone. And yet, New Orleans trailed by just three points at the half, 17-14."We were fortunate, honestly," Payton said.But it was who was lost for the game on the Saints' first turnover that hurt them most of all. Running back Pierre Thomas took a nasty hit to the head from Donte Whitner after catching a pass and lost the ball at the 49ers' 2-yard line.That it was on the Saints' first drive of the day only heightened the loss. And the lost opportunity to score first. Because if New Orleans cuts through the 49ers' vaunted defense like a hot knife through a fresh beignet on their first possession, we're looking at a totally different game.Yet while New Orleans is already one-dimensional, having little to no threat of a running game allowed the 49ers' front seven to simply pin back their ears and go.And stillBrees threw for 462 yards while completing 40 of 63 passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions.He hit Darren Sproles with a 44-yard catch-and-run touchdown that gave the Saints, who trailed 17-0 at one point, their first lead of the day at 24-23 with 4:02 to play."I think we got too excited," said Sproles, who caught a playoff-record 15 passes. "We didn't think that they could score like that, but they did. They proved us all wrong."Then, after Alex Smith answered with a 28-yard TD run, Brees found Jimmy Graham across the middle for a 66-yard score with 97 seconds to play. The ensuing two-point conversion put the Saints up 32-29."We have done it time and time again in close games," Graham said, "with just a little bit of time on the clock. You give Drew the ball late in the game like that, he is going to drive down the fieldunfortunately, it didn't get us the win."Not when Alex Smith engineered an 85-yard scoring drive, culminating with "The Grab" from Vernon Davis with nine seconds to play."We traded punches all day long," Brees said.The 49ers landed the last haymaker, though, and the Saints coughed the ball up enough to get knocked out.That whole finality thing?"You go from thinking about the NFC championship," Brees said, "and all of a sudden you're going home and there no more football until next year."

Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions


Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions

SANTA CLARA – While rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard is taking a micro view of his promotion, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not shy about admitting he is looking at the big picture.

Shanahan said how Beathard performs after replacing Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback will have “a ton” of influence on how the 49ers proceed during the offseason.

After all, the 49ers know every position will come under tremendous scrutiny as the organization looks to add the pieces that will make the club competitive.

“That’s for every position. That’s for every player on our team. That’s for every coach on our team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-6, and that’s extremely tough. But I’m extremely excited about this place and excited about where we’re at and where we’re going. There’s not a moment that I don’t waste thinking about that stuff.”

Beathard will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.

Hoyer failed in his bid to earn consideration as the 49ers’ quarterback for the remainder of this season and beyond during his six starts. Hoyer completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 74.1.

Now, Beathard gets his chance. But he said he is not thinking about the big picture and what it might mean for the future.

“I’m really just trying to take it one day, one week at a time,” Beathard said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. Right now, my focus is on today’s practice and geared towards beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”

Beathard was pressed into action last week when Hoyer’s struggles continued at Washngton. Beathard stepped in and completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the first time, Beathard is getting the first-team practice snaps with a game plan that is designed specifically for him.

Said Beathard, “Getting those extra reps, reps with guys that you don’t usually throw to, in the huddle with the guys that are out there, I think it’ll help a lot.”

Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates


Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates

More than 35 players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl champion will be in attendance on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium to show support for Dwight Clark, who revealed in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Clark, 60, will have ample opportunity to reconnect with some of his old friends on Saturday evening and again on Sunday. At halftime, Joe Montana, surrounded by most of the 49ers' 1981 team, will introduce Clark before a video tribute.

Clark is also expected to make some remarks while situated in a suite for the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Montana and his wife, Jennifer, have remained in close contact with Clark and his wife, Kelly. The Clarks recently watched the Blue Angels in San Francisco with the Montanas during Fleet Week.

“He’s getting pretty inundated with everyone staying in touch with him at this point,” Montana said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“It’s fun for him. At one point, he was telling his wife, Kelly, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what I want and what I miss, seeing the guys.’ So any of the guys reaching out to him, he surely appreciates it.”

Montana said Clark has not lost his positive outlook or his sense of humor, as evidenced by some not-fit-for-print words he recently had about his wheelchair. Montana said there are always some good laughs and stories any time Clark gets together with his friends.

“That’s the fun part," Montana said. “You just try to get him to forget what’s there, and that you’re there for him whenever. I think the support is the biggest thing right now. In that stage of ALS, it's got to be getting tough, where all of a sudden, things are becoming more and more difficult.”