The New Orleans Saints are going to be tough to beat at home — the rest of the regular season, and into the postseason.
Something about the din and madness of the Superdome makes even the toughest opponents, such as a game San Francisco 49ers team, change the way they play and ultimately make mistakes that work to the Saints' benefit. That's exactly what happened Sunday as the Saints seized control late and won on a last-second field goal, 23-20, over the Niners.
For most of the afternoon, the 49ers defended the Saints ably, and they appeared to control the action with their defense the way few teams are able to do to the Saints in any stadium. Brees was contained, and even derailed, at times through the first three quarters, with only 97 passing yards at halftime and a crucial third-quarter interception.
But Brees started hitting on passes and helped engineer his 23rd fourth-quarter comeback, courtesy of a controversial sack call that turned into a penalty on Ahmad Brooks. Instead of a fourth down and a punt, the Saints were given new life with 3:18 remaining. They finished off the drive and kicker Garrett Hartley — who could have been cut this week after his recent struggles — tied the game at 20-all.
Then the Saints' defense picked up the slack. They saved their best for last and forced the 49ers into a sack and a near intentional grounding call (it was ruled that Colin Kaepernick was out of the pocket; if so, he was barely out) as the 49ers punted back to the Saints.
A dumb penalty on the ensuing punt put the Saints in great field position with more than 100 seconds remaining, and Brees engineered the rest with the help of his amazing supporting cast. Hartley, again the hero, kicked the game winner and showed that even when things are not perfect for the Saints, they have a certain touch and magic in this building.
Future opponents, take notice: You need to be on your game for 60 minutes (not 55) and play near-perfect ball. If not, the weird voodoo forces — and oh yeah, a really good football team — will take over at some point.
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