Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/25/12
NEW ORLEANS - It wasn't so much that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a "hot hand" as it was that normally red-hot Drew Brees had a very cold one, courtesy of one very suffocating defense. Kaepernick got his second consecutive start in place of Alex Smith, who stood quietly on the sidelines holding a football, and Kaepernick passed for one touchdown and ran for another on a nifty read option. But it was the 49ers' suffocating defense, which intercepted the usually unflappable Brees twice and returned them both for touchdowns in a 3:52 span of the second and third quarters, that provided the difference in defeating the New Orleans Saints 31-21 Sunday at the Superdome. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks raced 50 yards with a Brees interception just 22 seconds before halftime to tie the game,14-14, and safety Donte Whitner returned a tipped pass 42 yards for a score early in the third quarter to put the 49ers on top 28-14. In between the interception returns was a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half that culminated with Kaepernick's six-yard swing pass to Frank Gore. The 49ers (8-2-1) never looked back. Brees looked confused on the coverage that resulted in Brooks' Pick 6. "We just put that defense in this week," said Brooks, referring to his deep drop in what might have looked initially like man coverage but turned into a zone. "I dropped to the three-receiver side, and they ran a stick route with the tight end (Jimmy Graham). He threw it right to me, and the rest is history." "Ahmad looked like he was shot out of a cannon after he caught the ball," said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Brees said there was no question the interception was the key play of the game because it swung the game's momentum. Leading 14-7 at the time, the Saints had taken possession on a Patrick Robinson interception of a Kaepernick pass at the Saints' 44 with 38 seconds left in the half, and Brees was looking to extend the Saints' lead with a quick strike. "The glaring thing was the two turnovers which resulted in touchdowns," Brees said. "That can't happen, especially the first one right at the end of the half when you're trying to go down and get something for your team. All of a sudden, it's 28-14." The second Pick 6 was less Brees' fault. Marques Colston went up high for the ball, but safety Dashon Goldson submarined him, and the ball deflected directly into the waiting arms of Whitner, who scampered 42 yards for the score. Kaepernick, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 231 yards, also scored on a seven-yard run in which he faked a handoff to Kendall Hunter on a read option and then ran around left end for the game's first score. Brees threw three touchdown passes - six yards to tight end David Thomas, 10 yards to Colston and two yards to fullback Jed Collins - but he was sacked five times and took a beating in the second half. Kaepernick was impressive on a key 16-play, 85-yard drive that led to David Akers' 27-yard field goal. The 49ers not only took a 31-21 lead, but Kaepernick also ate up 9:28 of the clock. Harbaugh refused to announce his starting quarterback for next week's game against the Rams, but it didn't appear that he was in any mood to switch away from Kaepernick. "Colin played well, and in a tough environment he acquitted himself well," Harbaugh said. "We'll address (the starting job) at a later date." NOTES: Colston's scoring pass was his 56th career TD, breaking the Saints' all-time franchise record of 55 by running back Deuce McAllister... Brees extended his NFL record of throwing a touchdown pass to 54 consecutive regular-season games... Kaepernick picked up three crucial third downs on the decisive 16-play, 85-yard drive that led to the 31-21 lead. The 49ers averaged 14.4 yards per catch, a testament to Kaepernick's ability to extend plays and get the ball downfield.
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