On January 6th of 2002, the Steve Marriuci led San Franscico 49ers beat Jim Haslett’s New Orleans Saints 38-0 on the last game of the season. That was the last time the Saints were shut out by an opponent until the 49ers did it again, 20 years later.
The 49ers dropped the Saints to 4-8 with the help of poor officiating and some good fortune on their way to a 13-0 victory on Sunday. You would think this loss would bury the Saints season, yet at 4-8 they are still just one game back from Tampa in the win column and they’ll get a chance next Sunday to play the Bucs to even the number of wins with them.
Still, it’s hard to imagine this team taking advantage of what feels like evergreen opportunities. Penalties, dropped passes, poor coaching, and turnovers were all once again on full display in a game that just never seemed to break the Saints’ way, even though they were continuously in it with an opportunity to win until late.
Andy Dalton would be an easy target of blame here when the offense produces no points, but surprisingly he didn’t seem to be the culprit. For the most part the Saints quarterback dealt with heavy pressure but delivered the ball quickly and accurately. He played well enough to win this game but he was continuously let down by his protection up front, his playmakers, his running back, his play calling, and the officials.
You really feel for the Saints defense in this one who held the 49ers’ potent offense to just 13 points. The touchdown came on a tipped ball by Tyrann Mathieu that somehow landed right into the waiting lap of Jauan Jennings. Otherwise, the 49ers produced just two field goals and we’re stuffed on a goal line stand in the first half. The 49ers ran for under 100 yards at 3.3 yards per carry, and passed for 221 more.
Credit the Saints’ defense for playing an exceptional game led again by their leading tackler in recent weeks, Kaden Elliss. Elliss led the Saints with 14 tackles and continues to play at an extremely high level filling in for the injured Pete Werner.
The Saints were crushed by a couple of extremely questionable officiating decisions that robbed them of a deep pass to Chris Olave down the 49er’ five-yard line and an Alontae Taylor interception down to the 49ers’ two-yard line. Both plays were wiped out by the officials and you have to wonder if the outcome would have been different without those decisions.
Even still, Alvin Kamara fumbled on the opening drive of the game to set up the first 49er field goal, and he later fumbled at the 49ers’ one-yard line to create his second turnover of the game. Will Lutz missed a field goal, and the Saints also dropped two passes in the end zone (Juwan Johnson and Taysom Hill). All in all, as much as the officiating played a part, the Saints still managed to lose this game with their mistakes as there were plenty of opportunities to stay in close contact.
That’s the story of this Saints season, self inflicted mistakes and never falling on the right side of breaks.
Andrew Juge is the co-host of “The Saints Happy Hour Podcast.” He can be followed on Twitter @AndrewJuge