San Francisco vs. New Orleans
After a hard-fought victory in their opener, the New Orleans Saints have the chance to make franchise history. The San Francisco 49ers are just looking to avoid their worst start in six years following a deflating loss.
The Saints will try to open 2-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time when they face the 49ers at Candlestick Park on Monday night.
New Orleans got the defense of its Super Bowl title off to a good start with a 14-9 victory over Minnesota last Thursday, winning a rematch of the NFC title game. The Saints scored their fewest points in a win in Sean Payton's four-plus seasons, but the coach left satisfied despite a handful of mistakes.
New Orleans finished with 308 yards, well below its league-best average of 403.8 in 2009. Garrett Hartley missed a pair of field goals and the Saints dropped several Drew Brees passes, including one by Robert Meachem in the end zone.
Brees still completed 75 percent of his throws (27 of 36) and opened the scoring with a 29-yard connection to Devery Henderson.
"He was sharp," Payton said. "There were a few opportunities where you'd normally expect them to make that catch, and Drew does a good job with some of those throws. That's another area that we'll continue to get better at. We have a lot of confidence in that group of receivers."
The Saints didn't commit a turnover, gave up one sack to the best pass rushing team in the league last season and didn't allow a point in the second half. That helped New Orleans take the lead for good on Pierre Thomas' 1-yard run with 6:13 left in the third quarter.
"You go back to finding ways to win," Payton said. "It's pleasing when you can win a game like that and finish the way we did."
Payton's counterpart in Monday's game, Mike Singletary, was far from happy after a 31-6 loss to Seattle last week.
The 49ers were a popular pick as a favorite to win the NFC West after completing their first perfect preseason in 18 years. San Francisco, however, failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 19 games.
San Francisco managed 49 yards rushing, and Alex Smith threw a pair of crucial interceptions during his 225-yard day. The 49ers gave up 28 points over a nearly seven-minute span.
"It doesn't taste good. It doesn't feel good," Smith said. "I think you've got to try and make it a positive, but it hurts."
That performance led to some harsh criticism from Singletary and a meeting when the team returned home that night.
"I said, 'You know what, we're going to get together and get this all ironed,'" Singletary said. "'We can look at the game for what it is as a team and learn from it, put it behind us, and get on to New Orleans.'"
The 49ers, who haven't started 0-2 since losing their first four games in 2004, have dropped a series-worst five in a row to the Saints, their former NFC West rivals.
Brees threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns in the teams' last matchup, a 31-17 New Orleans home win Sept. 28, 2008. He had 336 yards and four TDs in his team's most recent trip to San Francisco, a 31-10 victory Oct. 28, 2007.
Brees is 4-0 against the 49ers and has 1,221 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in those games.
San Francisco is 22-10-2 at home against New Orleans but has dropped eight of 10 overall meetings.
Monday's game is the first for Saints running back Reggie Bush since he forfeited the Heisman Trophy he won with Southern California in 2005.
San Francisco fans need to get ready to get whooped at home on their opening day.
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