Deuce returns and Saints beat 49ers

Deuce returns and Saints beat 49ers


AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Setting Deuce loose was more than a crowd pleasing move by a coach feeling the heat from disgruntled fans.

San Francisco’s shaky run defense had trouble stopping Deuce McAllister’s power running and the New Orleans Saints stayed out of an early-season hole with a 31-17 victory on Sunday.

The Saints’ all-time rusher is now playing on two reconstructed knees. It hardly looked that way when he bowled over tacklers for first downs, moved the pile or dived over it for his first touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter.

He carried 20 times for 73 yards and had a 10-yard reception to convert a third down. He gave the Saints the credible power running threat they needed to open up deep throws for Drew Brees, who certainly knows how to cash in on those.

Brees was 23-of-35 for 363 yards and three scores, including touchdowns of 47 yards to Robert Meachem and 33 yards to Lance Moore. Brees also set up scores with a 52-yard pass to Meachem and an 81-yard connection with Devery Henderson.

The Saints (2-2) showed an inability to convert short-yardage runs and it cost them in close losses at Washington and Denver. Saints fans flooded call-in shows with complaints about coach Sean Payton’s reluctance to play McAllister, who’d had only two carries – but gained 5 yards on each – during the opening three weeks.

Payton said he was trying to be cautious with the 29-year-old McAllister and would play him when the time was right. With San Francisco allowing an average of 131 yards rushing coming in, the right time was Sunday.

J.T. O’Sullivan was 18-of-36 for 257 yards, but continued to take too many sacks. Having been sacked 13 times through the Niners’ first three games, O’Sullivan was brought down six more times, twice by Charles Grant. Three of those sacks helped stall promising drives that ended with field goals, allowing New Orleans to maintain a comfortable lead.

O’Sullivan also fumbled in 49ers territory on one early sack, setting up the Saints’ first touchdown.

O’Sullivan also threw two interceptions in the end zone, first to Kevin Kaesviharn and then to rookie Tracy Porter, who had his first career interception and first-career sack.

Frank Gore was effective rushing, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. But San Francisco (2-2) was forced to limit runs when it fell behind by multiple scores and Gore finished with 82 yards.

San Francisco led in the first quarter on Joe Nedney’s 47-yard field goal, and New Orleans’ first promising drive stalled on Takeo Spikes’ interception.

But Will Smith put the Saints in striking range with his sack and forced fumble, which Jonathan Vilma recovered at the Niners 32. Brees zipped a pinpoint pass to Moore near the front pylon for a 5-yard score.

A steady dose of McAllister and Moore produced another TD on the next drive. McAllister rushed four times for 22 yards before Brees found Moore behind the secondary to make it 14-3.

Nedney’s 49-yard field goal pulled San Francisco to 14-6, but New Orleans wasn’t done. Brees found tight end Billy Miller for 18 yards, then unloaded his long scoring pass to Meachem, who got behind Mark Roman and used body position to prevent the safety from breaking up the slightly underthrown ball. That gave the Saints a 21-6 lead at halftime.

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