49ers vs. Saints: Drew Brees, New Orleans Playoff Hopes Picked off

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterNovember 25, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 25:   Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by  Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers at The Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 25, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The pressure on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was relentless.

Brees was sacked five times by the San Francisco 49ers—all in the second half—in Sunday’s 31-21 loss in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The pressure came from everywhere.

Outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith got to Brees 1.5 times each, as did defensive tackle Justin Smith. Inside linebacker Patrick Willis recorded half a sack. Brees was knocked down seven times and took 11 hits on top of the five sacks.

It wasn’t a pretty night for the offensive line, a group that was abused in the second half and gave Brees next to no time to make decisions and move the offense down the field.

Not only did the 49ers outplay the Saints at the line of scrimmage, but New Orleans fell prey to the injury bug. Already thin on the depth chart, Bryce Harris, who was filling in for an inactive Zach Strief (groin), left the game with a leg injury.

That’s when William Robinson entered the game. Robinson was signed on Tuesday because of lack-of-depth fears from the Saints front office. Turns out those fears were warranted.

Even though the offensive line failed Brees often in the second half, it was Brees that made two terrible mistakes, miscues that cost New Orleans 14 points.

With 43 seconds left to play in the first half, Brees under no pressure was attempting to sneak a pass into tight end Jimmy Graham. Ahmad Brooks stepped in front of the route and took the ball 50 yards for a touchdown.

Just over three minutes into the third quarter, Brees threw high toward wide receiver Marques Colston over the middle. Colston almost made a great grab and pulled the ball down, but it went off his hands into the hands of 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner, who took the interception back 42 yards for a touchdown.

In just over four minutes of game clock between the second and third quarter, Brees touched the ball four times and threw two pick-sixes, knelt down once to kill the clock and was sacked.

That’s likely a four-minute stretch Brees would like to have back. Sunday’s game is likely in the same boat.

The loss drops the Saints to 5-6 and forces New Orleans to win each of its remaining five games just to have a shot at making the playoffs.

New Orleans has to travel to Atlanta on a short week and play the Falcons in four days. Then the Saints still have the New York Giants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Carolina Panthers on the schedule.

It’s going to take Brees at his best for New Orleans to run the table. He can’t have another night like Sunday or all hope is lost in New Orleans.