Saints Kick Game Winning Field Goal, Send 49ers To 0-2

Garrett Hartley hit a field goal as time expired as Drew Brees and the Saints improved to 2-0. Alex Smith played valiantly in a vain comeback effort, but it wasn't enough for San Francisco.

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Garrett Hartley Hits Game Winning Field Goal, Niners Fall to 0-2

San Francisco, CA (Sports Network) - Garrett Hartley kicked a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the game, lifting the Saints to a 25-22 win over San Francisco in what may have been a costly victory for New Orleans.

Running back Reggie Bush was carted to the locker room in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury. He was helped off the field after falling on the football during a muffed punt return.

Drew Brees threw for two touchdowns and led the Saints (2-0) on the final seven-play, 51-yard drive by hittingMarques Colston with a big 30-yard connection to the San Francisco 18. Brees finished the night 28-of-38 passing for 254 yards with two scores. This was the Saints' sixth straight win over the 49ers.

"We just weren't going to turn the ball over," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We were going to be smart. It's a good win."

Frank Gore scored on a seven-yard run with 1:19 left for the 49ers, but Alex Smith's two-point completed conversion pass to Vernon Davis was ruled to be short of the end zone. Upon video review, officials ruled Davis caught the ball in the end zone before being pushed out to the half-yard line by Roman Harper, which ultimately tied the game.

Smith finished 23-of-32 for 275 yards with a TD and two interceptions for San Francisco (0-2), which had four turnovers. Gore rushed 20 times for 112 yards. It was his 21st career game with at least 100 yards rushing, breaking the franchise record held by Joe Perry.

"My mind set is when we stop defeating ourselves, when we stop putting the ball on the ground, when we stop doing things to hurt ourselves, we're going to be a good football team," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "How good? That remains to be seen. That is my feeling after this game."

Bush injured his right leg during a punt return with 6:58 remaining. He muffed the catch and fell on the football. Bush tried leaving the field under his own power, only to fall down. He was assisted to the sideline. He was then carted to the locker room and was on crutches after the contest.

The defending Super Bowl champions, coming off a 14-9 win over Minnesota, capitalized off a turnover to expand their lead to 22-14. Phillip Adams muffed a punt return, and Courtney Roby fell on the ball at the 14 for the Saints. San Francisco's defense stiffened at the one, and Hartley drilled a 19-yard field goal with 2:12 remaining.

Smith then moved the 49ers 82 yards in eight plays, culminating with Gore's TD run up the middle. Smith scrambled for a big 12-yard gain during the drive.

After the controversial two-point conversion, Brees found Pierre Thomas for gains of eight and 14 yards. Two plays later, 49ers safety Dashon Goldson had his back to the ball when Colston caught a pass over the middle with 19 seconds left. After a four-yard pass to Jeremy Shockey, Brees signaled for a timeout with two seconds left. Following a false start penalty, Hartley knuckled through a low trajectory kick that appeared to be tipped, but the Saints got the win and are off to a 2-0 start in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.

"We've shown we can win in a lot of ways," Brees said. "To be battle-tested like this just in the first two weeks of the season is going to serve us very well as we move forward."

There was trouble right at the start for the 49ers as a third down shotgun snap went over the head of Smith, who batted the ball out of the end zone for a safety just 1:32 into the game. Brees hit Bush with a six-yard score for a 9-0 lead to finish New Orleans' first possession.

Smith was picked off by Harper later in the first quarter and Adams muffed another punt return, but the 49ers successfully challenged the fumble ruling and retained possession.

Smith threw a 12-yard TD pass to Gore with just under 10 minutes left in the half and the 49ers were threatening to go ahead before the break, but tight end Delanie Walker fumbled the ball away after making a reception inside the New Orleans 10 with a minute left.

The 49ers did move in front, 14-9, with 6:51 left in the third on a two-yard scoring run from Anthony Dixon, but Brees' three-yard TD pass to David Thomas sent the Saints ahead again before the end of the quarter.

Hartley's 46-yard field goal 1 1/2 minutes into the fourth expanded the New Orleans lead to 19-14, and Smith was picked off by Tracy Porter at the New Orleans 10 on the ensuing possession.

"There's some better things to take away from it, but we're still killing ourselves, turnovers in the red zone," Smith said when comparing Monday's defeat to a 31-6 season-opening loss at Seattle. "It definitely hurts."

At halftime, the 49ers retired the uniform No. 80 of Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. He also received his Hall of Fame ring...Thomas had 18 carries for 46 yards and eight receptions for 57 yards...Gore also had seven catches for 56 yards...Saints cornerback Randall Gay suffered a concussion in the first quarter.

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49ers-Saints Final Injury Report: Question Marks In Secondary

The 49ers released their final injury report for the week heading into Monday’s battle with the Saints.

There are some questions about Chilo Rachal at right guard (as discussed at the above link), but there is also a concern for the 49ers in the secondary. Will James managed to improve from Out to Doubtful but is probably not going to be able to play this Sunday.

The bigger concern is that Phillip Adams is questionable for the game. James has been out since the middle of training camp, so his absence on Monday wouldn’t be a shock. However, with James out, Adams is the #4 and final cornerback for the team. Given all the receiving weapons the Saints have at their disposal, having some cornerback depth would be at least a little bit helpful. I’d imagine Adams will be playing, but this is certainly a cause for concern for now.

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49ers Punt Return Options Banged Up

The 49ers had a good deal of success last week with Ted Ginn Jr returning punts against the Seahawks (arguably the only positive from the game). Unfortunately Ginn sprained his MCL and will probably not be playing this week.

In his place, the 49ers’ options include CB Phillip Adams, WR Kyle Williams and WR Dominique Zeigler. Adams and Williams both had success in the preseason, while Zeigler received a few opportunities last season.

Wiliams has been out for a month due to an injury the first week of the preseason and has been limited in practice this week. Adams received the one punt return after Ginn went out and would appear to be the favorite, particularly since he ran one back for a touchdown in the preseason. However, he was limited in practice today with a sore hamstring. He practiced fully yesterday, so I’d like to hope it’s just a temporary thing. If not, expect Zeigler back returning punts on Monday Night Football.

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Shawntae Spencer, Ahmad Brooks Involved in 49ers Practice Scuffle

The San Francisco 49ers had a bit of a scuffle prior to practice Thursday caught on tape by CSN Bay Area.

Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks did not have to wait until his return to the playing field to experience his first big hit in six weeks. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer leveled Brooks on Thursday with a shoulder to his left side during a routine ball-security drill at the start of Thursday's practice when cameras are allowed to film the 49ers' warm-up drills.

Hopefully a lacerated kidney isn't an easily recurring injury.

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49ers-Saints: Battling The Saints Mighty Offense

There is no question the New Orleans Saints have a filthy offense that can absolutely obliterate even the best defense. The 49ers are coming off a blowout loss in Seattle in which the secondary got too aggressive and was burned accordingly by Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks WRs. Niners Nation opened the floor for discussion on how to improve the situation and received a variety of responses. Reader Tre9er cut to the chase:

I think you need to keep the safeties deep in zone, well, they should be true “safeties” in that they keep everything in front on their half, and then play Man underneath. I’d expect a lot of Nickel and Dime, we’re gonna have to if they march 4-5 WR’s out there. There has to be some man though, even if it’s just 2 or 3 man and the rest of the guys play zone. We also have to send LB’s on blitzes, use stunts, and don’t give up on it. Tell the secondary “NO BIG PLAYS” and then unleash the dogs.

The 49ers struggled enough in the pass rush against the Seahawks and will certainly need to get improved play from their blitzing linebackers. Coach Singletary indicated Ahmad Brooks will probably play this week so that would be a nice addition to the lineup.

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