Deuce McAllister answers the call for New Orleans Saints in win over 49ers
Posted by Teddy Kider, The Times-Picayune September 28, 2008 9:57PM
Saints Coach Sean Payton wanted better production from his team in short-yardage situations, and New Orleans fans wanted more plays for running back Deuce McAllister.
Both desires came together early in the fourth quarter Sunday against San Francisco at the Superdome, as McAllister jumped headfirst over a pile of players and into the end zone on second-and-goal.
“We wanted to get a win,” McAllister said. “I can’t say that it was a must win, but it was a game that we definitely needed.”
The Saints (2-2) began their longest homestand of the season, three games, with a win that brought them back to .500.
The star of the show — because he has been the star in New Orleans for so long — was McAllister, who had played sparingly in just one regular-season game before Sunday. Against the 49ers, he was introduced with the starters before the game, he was in for the Saints’ first offensive play, and he led the team in rushing, with 73 yards and the touchdown on 20 carries.
“Whether it was third-and-short or fourth-and-1 or at the beginning of the game, whatever it was, I just wanted to be on the field,” said McAllister, who also had a catch for 10 yards.
McAllister’s return to form after two knee surgeries came after a week that included more team injuries than Payton said he had seen during any other week in his head coaching career. On Thursday and Friday, the Saints listed 14 players on their injury report, including top receiver Marques Colston and starting tight end Jeremy Shockey.
Without those threats, and with Saints running back Reggie Bush held to 7 yards on five catches and 31 rushing yards on 10 carries, the Saints still produced 467 yards of offense.
“When you’re not 100 percent healthy, someone else very talented is in the game, and obviously the quarterback has confidence in these players just as we do as coaches,” Payton said. “So we’ve just got to battle through this injury thing right now. It’s just something mentally we just can’t allow to be a factor in how we play.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 23 of 35 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception. His favorite receiver Sunday was Lance Moore, who finished with career highs in yards and touchdowns — 101 and two — on seven catches.
Moore scored the Saints’ first two touchdowns, which gave New Orleans an 11-point advantage with three minutes to go in the second quarter, after the Saints had fallen behind 3-0.
“I’ve always had a lot of confidence in Lance,” Brees said. “It’s just been one of those things where when you’re spreading the ball around to Reggie and to Colston and Shockey now and David Patten and some of these other guys, not that he gets lost in the shuffle, but people just kind of forget about Lance Moore. He’s a guy who I have as much confidence in as anybody else on our team and on offense.”
The Saints also continued to get explosive plays from receiver Robert Meachem, who finished with two catches for 99 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown reception that gave the Saints a 21-6 halftime lead. And receiver Devery Henderson had an 81-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
The injuries continued to bother New Orleans — Patten left the game with a pre-existing groin problem, safety Chris Reis had to leave with a hamstring problem and kicker Martin Gramatica tweaked his groin during warmups, leaving punter Steve Weatherford to handle kickoffs.
But the aspect of the Saints’ game that once suffered the most from injuries, their defense, had perhaps its most complete performance of the season. The 49ers (2-2) had 312 total yards, successfully converted three of 10 third downs and were held without a touchdown until 4:08 remained in the fourth quarter.
That touchdown and a successful two-point conversion left the score at 28-17, and the Saints followed up with a drive to a field goal that saw McAllister pound the ball inside.
San Francisco quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan, a 2002 sixth-round draft pick of the Saints who is getting his first opportunity to play significant time in the NFL, was sacked six times, including twice by defensive end Charles Grant. The Saints’ other starting end, Will Smith, forced O’Sullivan to fumble in the second quarter and linebacker Jonathan Vilma recovered, setting up the drive that ended in the Saints’ first touchdown.
“We honestly kept doing the same things we have been working on,” said Saints rookie defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who had a sack. “We really didn’t change anything. We just all had more intensity today. We refused to be denied. Charles Grant had a great game today. Some of the older guys have been leading the way for us.”
The Saints also came away with two interceptions, by safety Kevin Kaesviharn and rookie cornerback Tracy Porter — and both came in the end zone, with the 49ers poised to score.
“We saw some turnovers, and I thought we played the ball pretty well,” Payton said. “I thought we hit the quarterback, which was good. I think when they became a little bit one-dimensional, which was really late in the third quarter, fourth quarter, then we were able to benefit from that.”
With that benefit in hand, the Saints snapped a two-game losing streak, completed perhaps their most well-rounded game of the season and gained some momentum before a Monday night matchup with the Minnesota Vikings.
Teddy Kider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3409