Kaepernick rallies 49ers past Saints in a thriller
A reprieve for mercurial quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Redemption for indomitable linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Kaepernick completed a 51-yard pass on fourth down to sustain a tying drive in the final minutes of regulation, Brooks sacked and stripped Drew Brees in overtime and Phil Dawson kicked a 35-yard field goal to cap San Francisco’s stirring 27-24 victory over New Orleans on Sunday, local time.
The victory snapped a two-game skid for the Niners (5-4) and marked the first home loss for the Saints (4-5) in more than a season.
“It was paramount for us to come out with a win,’’ said San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley.
New Orleans had won 11 straight in the Superdome - 20 straight at home in games coached by Sean Payton, who was suspended in 2012. It looked like that streak would continue after New Orleans erased an 11-point halftime deficit and took a lead on Brees’ 2-yard scoring pass to Jimmy Graham with 1:52 left.
Even after the Niners tied it on Dawson’s 45-yard field goal with 44 seconds left, the Saints nearly won on the final play of regulation. Brees heaved a long toss that Graham, who played college basketball, leaped up and caught in the end zone - but the star tight end was called for pass interference after appearing to shove defensive back Perrish Cox to the turf.
“Definitely not a push off. I’m running down the field and I’m telling myself not to push off. Whatever you do, don’t push off. Just go up and get it,’’ Graham said.
Brooks’ decisive blow on his sack of Brees had to feel like poetic justice to the Niners’ defensive stalwart. His unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a vicious sack and strip in the Superdome a year ago allowed the Saints to pull out a late comeback victory.
This time, Brooks’ play set up Dawson’s winning kick with 5:14 remaining in overtime.
New Orleans’ defense, which sacked Kaepernick four times, dominated nearly the entire second half, allowing the Saints to come back. All New Orleans needed was a stop on fourth-and-10 to close the deal.
Kaepernick rolled right to buy time, spotted Michael Crabtree deep down field and unloaded his game-saving pass to the Saints’ 27.
Crabtree “was about the third or fourth guy I looked at when I was scrambling,’’ Kaepernick said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m happy it happened that way.’’
Kaepernick finished 14 of 32 for 210 yards. Anquan Boldin had six catches for 95 yards, including a touchdown. Brees finished 28 of 47 for 292 yards.AP