Saints their own worst enemy in defeat


Saints their own worst enemy in defeat


SAN FRANCISCO -- The finality floated through the New Orleans locker room like a bad smell or, like a bad dream.Twice, the Saints' high-octane had put wooden stakes straight through the hearts of the 49ers. Late in the fourth quarter. And twice the 49ers pulled them out, licked them and threw them to the side."It's hard when you get that close and all of a sudden it slips away," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "It's difficult."49ers, 36. Saints, 32. But that only told part of the story.Because as the finality came to fruition for the Saints, it was especially hard to take for their record-setting quarterback. Consider: in 16 regular-season games, New Orleans lost five fumbles. Total. Against the 49ers, they lost three fumbles. And Drew Brees was picked off twice."The fact that we could turn the ball over five times and still have a chance to win is remarkable," said Brees, combing the ruins of the Saints' latest underachieving finish for something, anything positive to get him through the flight home."(The 49ers have) a big, tough physical defense and after you make a catch, they light you up."Indeed. But be sure of this -- the Saints were their own uncharacteristic worst enemy on a day in which they twice seemed to overcome their own ineptitude. Mind you, winning the turnover battle was seen as the only way the 49ers could compete with Brees, who threw for an NFL single season-record 5,476 yards this season.And the Saints obliged with four turnovers in the first half alone. And yet, New Orleans trailed by just three points at the half, 17-14."We were fortunate, honestly," Payton said.But it was who was lost for the game on the Saints' first turnover that hurt them most of all. Running back Pierre Thomas took a nasty hit to the head from Donte Whitner after catching a pass and lost the ball at the 49ers' 2-yard line.That it was on the Saints' first drive of the day only heightened the loss. And the lost opportunity to score first. Because if New Orleans cuts through the 49ers' vaunted defense like a hot knife through a fresh beignet on their first possession, we're looking at a totally different game.Yet while New Orleans is already one-dimensional, having little to no threat of a running game allowed the 49ers' front seven to simply pin back their ears and go.And stillBrees threw for 462 yards while completing 40 of 63 passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions.He hit Darren Sproles with a 44-yard catch-and-run touchdown that gave the Saints, who trailed 17-0 at one point, their first lead of the day at 24-23 with 4:02 to play."I think we got too excited," said Sproles, who caught a playoff-record 15 passes. "We didn't think that they could score like that, but they did. They proved us all wrong."Then, after Alex Smith answered with a 28-yard TD run, Brees found Jimmy Graham across the middle for a 66-yard score with 97 seconds to play. The ensuing two-point conversion put the Saints up 32-29."We have done it time and time again in close games," Graham said, "with just a little bit of time on the clock. You give Drew the ball late in the game like that, he is going to drive down the fieldunfortunately, it didn't get us the win."Not when Alex Smith engineered an 85-yard scoring drive, culminating with "The Grab" from Vernon Davis with nine seconds to play."We traded punches all day long," Brees said.The 49ers landed the last haymaker, though, and the Saints coughed the ball up enough to get knocked out.That whole finality thing?"You go from thinking about the NFC championship," Brees said, "and all of a sudden you're going home and there no more football until next year."

Staley sits out 49ers practice with hamstring injury

Staley sits out 49ers practice with hamstring injury

SANTA CLARA – Left tackle Joe Staley, who has not missed a game since 2010, did not practice Thursday due to a hamstring injury.

The 49ers’ five-time Pro Bowl performer has the third-longest active streak among offensive tackles with 92 consecutive starts. Only Cleveland's Joe Thomas (156) and Oakland's Donald Penn (152) have started more consecutive games.

Staley’s availability for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets at Levi’s Stadium is in question after he was held out of practice on Thursday after going through the full workload on Wednesday.

If Staley is unable to play, the 49ers would likely move left guard Zane Beadles to left tackle and insert Andrew Tiller at left guard. Tiller started the first five games of the season at right guard before rookie Joshua Garnett took over.

Did not practice
T Joe Staley (hamstring)
DT Quinton Dial (elbow)
DT Glenn Dorsey (knee)
RB Shaun Draughn (ribs)
LB Eli Harold (toe)
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)
Full participation
DT Ronald Blair (hamstring)
C Daniel Kilgore (hamstring)

Did not practice
S Antonio Allen (concussion)
T Breno Giacomini (back, calf, shoulder)
WR Jalin Marshall (concussion)
DT Steve McLendon (hamstring)
RB Khiry Robinson (lower leg)
LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle)
S Calvin Pryor (concussion)
DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
Full participation
RB Matt Forte (knee, foot)
WR Brandon Marshall (knee, foot)
CB Nick Marshall (ankle)
DE Leonard Williams (illness)
CB Marcus Williams (ankle)

Pearl Harbor speech: Admiral calls out Kaepernick, others for anthem kneeling

Pearl Harbor speech: Admiral calls out Kaepernick, others for anthem kneeling

Wednesday was the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Although he didn't call out Colin Kaepernick by name, Admiral Harry B. Harris gave a speech that included a message intended for a certain group of athletes and/or entertainers.

“You can bet that the men and women we honor today, and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago, never took a knee and never failed to stand whenever they heard our national anthem being played."

Many of those in attendance gave the Admiral a standing ovation.

During the preseason, Kaepernick remained seated on the 49ers' team bench during the national anthem.

After sparking a national controversy, Kaepernick began kneeling as opposed to sitting.

After the 49ers' loss to the Bears on Sunday, Kaepernick said he will continue his demonstration moving forward.

"Today we have a precious opportunity to reflect -- to reflect on what it means to be a patriot, to reflect on what it means to be a nation tested by war, and to reflect on both the costs and the blessings of liberty," Admiral Harris added. "To America's World War II patriots here and watching at home -- we will never forget your courage under considerable fire and seemingly insurmountable odds.

"Because of you, our future remains bright. We owe you an immeasurable debt and we can't thank you enough for answering the call of duty when Lady Liberty needed it the most."