Maiocco's Instant Replay: 49ers 31, Saints 21

November 26, 2012, 12:44 am
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NEW ORLEANS -- Colin Kaepernick, making his second NFL start, was on the mark with many of his pass attempts on Sunday.But the 49ers' most important two catches came from the defense.Linebacker Ahmad Brooks and safety Donte Whitner returned interceptions for touchdowns to key the 49ers' 31-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.Kaepernick had another strong showing on Sunday, as he got the start over Alex Smith, who was cleared to return from a Nov. 11 concussion. The 49ers are 19-5-1 over the past two seasons in games Smith started.Smith stoically paced the sideline fidgeting with a football. He wore his helmet during the 49ers' possessions so he could listen to the play calls via the radio transmitter in his helmet.On the field, Kaepernick gave coach Jim Harbaugh no reason to question his decision to go with the second-year quarterback.Kaepernick completed 16 of 25 passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also proved to be a threat on the ground with 27 yards and a touchdown on six rush attempts.As well as Kaepernick played for most of the game, the 49ers still needed the defense to come up big.Brooks returned an interception 50 yards near the end of the first half just two plays after Kaepernick was intercepted by Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson. Brooks' touchdown pulled the 49ers into a 14-14 halftime tie.The 49ers added two touchdowns early in the third quarter to take the lead. Kaepernick hit running back Frank Gore on a 6-yard scoring pass. A short time later, Whitner hauled in an interception and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 28-14 lead.Safety Dashon Goldson was largely responsible for the interception, as he upended Saints receiver Marques Colston as the pass arrived. The ball deflected off Colston, who landed on his head as Whitner intercepted the pass.HOT START: On the 49ers' second offensive possession, Kaepernick hit receiver Mario Manningham in stride near the sideline. Manningham picked up good downfield blocking from running back Frank Gore on his way to a 40-yard gain.Kaepernick then stuck a 13-yard out route onto Manningham. That play set up a zone read option in which Kaepernick faked a handoff to Kendall Hunter and kept it for a 7-yard score. It was Kaepernick's fourth rushing touchdown of the season.COSTLY DROPS: Punt returner Ted Ginn muffed a Thomas Morstead punt in the first half that led directly to a Saints touchdown. Ginn bobbled the punt, which Rafael Bush recovered at the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Brees hit Colston with a 10-yard scoring pass.On offense, the 49ers had a difficult time hanging onto the football, too. Kaepernick's first three incomplete passes came on balls that hit 49ers targets Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in the hands.INJURIES: Receiver Kyle Williams and running back Kendall Hunter left the game after sustaining injuries on the same third-quarter play.Both players were assisted off the field, and both were taken to the locker room. Williams sustained an injury to his left knee and was immediately ruled out of the game.Hunter sustained a left ankle injury and did not return.
Brandon Jacobs stepped on the field for the first time this season. Jacobs had a 2-yard carry in the third quarter that was nullified by a holding penalty.He also ran for one yard on a late carry as the 49ers were running out the clock.
NEXT UP: The 49ers travel to face the St. Louis Rams next Sunday. The teams met Nov. 11 in a game that ended in a 24-24 tie. Quarterback Alex Smith was knocked from the game with a concussion in the second quarter, opening the door for Colin Kaepernick.THIS 'N' THAT: Alex Smith received medical clearance to be available for the game by remaining symptom-free from the concussion he sustained Nov. 11. He was the only other active quarterback. Scott Tolzien was declared inactive. . . Outside linebacker Aldon Smith recorded two sacks, his 16th and 17th of the season. . . Brooks' interception was the second of his career and his first NFL touchdown. Whitner's interception was his first with the 49ers and the eighth of his seventh of his career. It was his second career touchdown.

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