It was a game where the 49ers’ defense showed why they are one of the best in the NFL, and Colin Kaepernick showed why he deserves to be the permanent starting quarterback as the Niners defeated the Saints 31-21 at the Superdome.
Kaepernick went 16/25 for 231 yards and a touchdown pass while Alex Smith watched gloomily from the sidelines. He got them off to a good start, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a nice fake to Kendall Hunter and ran it in himself for a seven-yard score.
But the Saints’ prolific offense did not back down from the fight, as Drew Brees led New Orleans down the field on the ensuing drive, resulting in a Denarius Thomas touchdown.
The Saints were poised to take a 14-7 lead into halftime, but all the momentum shifted after Ahmad Brooks picked off a pass intended for Jimmy Graham and ran it all the way back for a 47-yard score to tie things up heading into the break.
The second half was controlled by the Niners, who scored on their first drive when Kaepernick led them 80 yards down the field, then dumped it off to Frank Gore for a six-yard touchdown to put San Francisco back in the lead.
Brees and the Saints came back onto the field, looking to even the score back up, but instead allowed another pick six. This time, Brees’ pass down the field was tipped by Marques Colston into the arms of Donte Whitner, who ran it back for a 42-yard score.
That would turn out to be the pivotal play in the game, as the Saints were never able to battle back from the 14-point deficit. The Niners’ defense held them scoreless in the fourth quarter and took the game 31-21.
This game all but solidified Kaepernick’s starting job. Although his numbers were not as impressive as his Monday Night start against the Bears, he showed that he possessed the tools to win against a tough team like the Saints. He was able to escape pressure and get away throws that a certain quarterback named Alex Smith would not have been able to. Even more impressively, he was sacked zero times.