There were times Sunday that Colin Kaepernick looked like the quarterback who led San Francisco to the Super Bowl just a few seasons ago.
There was his bullet pass to tight end Garrett Celek for 22 yards and his 65-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vance McDonald. There was a scramble late in the second half for 10 yards, even as his helmet was knocked off.
Kaepernick had his best day of the season for an offense that finally showed some life, completing 24-of-39 passes for 398 yards and two TDs as San Francisco put up 23 points, its highest-scoring game since Week 2. He showed off a strong and mostly accurate arm and quick feet, running five times for 23 yards. It was the second-highest passing total of Kaepernick's NFL career.
Yet because the 49ers defense couldn’t stop the Saints, it didn’t matter.
Drew Brees threw for 323 yards and three TDs and Mark Ingram became the seventh straight running back to run for more than 100 yards, with 158 – including a 75-yard scoring burst – to lead the Saints to a 41-23 victory at Levi’s Stadium. The loss dropped the 49ers to 1-7 at the halfway point of this season.
Three big mistakes also sunk the 49ers. On one, running back Mike Davis fumbled the ball away on the New Orleans’ yard line. On another, Kaepernick lost the ball on a fourth-and-5 play at the New Orleans 10 with just over 6 minutes remaining. Later, DuJuan Harris lost a fumble deep in San Francisco territory. Kaepernick also threw an interception.
The 49ers took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a Phil Dawson 49-yard field goal, but the Saints came roaring back with three straight TDs – a Tim Hightower 4-yard run, a 1-yard pass to Michael Thomas from Brees and a 5-yard pass to Ingram from Brees – before San Francisco started to claw back.
Kaepernick had a 47-yard pass to Harris and the 65-yard scoring pass to McDonald – along with a 48-yard field goal by Dawson – to get to within 31-20 at the half.
New Orleans tacked on 10 points in the third quarter, however, and the 49ers were shut out, cementing their seventh straight loss after a season-opening win over the Rams.
Though the 49ers collected 486 yards in offense, they gave up 571 and lost the turnover battle, 4-0. New Orleans also had the ball more than 38 minutes while San Francisco had it just over 21 minutes.
The 49ers travel to Arizona this coming Sunday to take on the Cardinals, with kickoff set for 1:25 p.m.