Saints lead 49ers 16-14 after 3rd quarter

Drew Brees threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to David Thomas late in

the third quarter to give the New Orleans Saints a 16-14 lead over

the San Francisco 49ers after three quarters Monday night.

Reggie Bush caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brees on New

Orleans’ opening drive of his first game since giving back his

Heisman Trophy. But the Saints didn’t score again until a 10-play,

61-yard drive capped by Thomas’ short touchdown catch.

Frank Gore caught a TD pass for San Francisco. Anthony Dixon’s

2-yard touchdown run on his first career carry briefly had given

the Niners the lead in their home opener against the defending

Super Bowl champions.

San Francisco had the better of the play for much of the first

three quarters, but was done in by key mistakes. A bad snap led to

a safety on the opening drive and two first-half turnovers ended

drives deep into New Orleans territory.

There was a festive beginning to the game with receiver Jerry

Rice running out in his Hall of Fame jacket for the opening coin

toss before his jersey retirement ceremony at halftime. His former

quarterback, Joe Montana, and owner, Eddie DeBartolo, were on hand

for the event.

That sentiment didn’t last long. The 49ers gave up a safety on

their first possession and then allowed Bush’s touchdown on New

Orleans’ first time with the ball.

The mistakes started right away for the Niners as Moran Norris

was called for holding on the opening kickoff to back them up to

their own 10. Three plays later, David Baas sailed a shotgun snap

well over Alex Smith’s head for a safety.

After a short free kick, Brees easily moved the Saints down the

field on a 46-yard touchdown drive. He capped the drive with the TD

pass to Bush, who beat All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis with an

inside move for the score.

Bush was playing for the first time since giving back his 2005

Heisman Trophy won while with Southern California. The NCAA

punished USC after concluding that Bush and his family took money

and gifts from sports agents while Bush played for the Trojans.

The Niners didn’t have the same problems getting the plays from

offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye to Smith as they did in the

opener, committing one delay of game penalty and not calling any

needless timeouts.

Coach Mike Singletary and Raye spent the week trying to fix the

problem that led to unnecessary timeouts and delay of game

penalties in the 31-6 loss at Seattle last week. While moving Raye

down to the field was discussed, he stayed put in the booth to call

the plays and Smith sported a wristband with go-to plays in case

that happened again.

After gaining 29 yards on their first three drives, San

Francisco moved the ball 82 yards for a score early in the second

quarter on Smith’s 12-yard pass to Gore.

The Niners were moving it again late in the half before Jonathan

Vilma stripped Delanie Walker of the ball inside the 10 with 1

minute left in the half.

Smith completed long passes to Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis

to set up Dixon’s touchdown run on San Francisco’s first drive of

the second half.

But Brees answered back, with the help of a roughing the passer

penalty on Parys Haralson that moved the ball into San Francisco

territory after the first play of the drive.