NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints overcame a stumbling start and a slew of injuries, including one to quarterback Drew Brees to beat San Francisco 27-13 Sunday.
The Saints benefitted from stellar defensive play against an injury-depleted Niners team and several turnovers that set up short fields on a day when their offense struggled even before Brees didn’t return for the second half.
"I was not going to be able to be effective. It had nothing to do with pain but what my body was going to be able to do and not be able to do," he said after the game.
Brees said he would take his injury "One day at a time," when asked if he had a timetable for a return.
The offense only ran 3 plays in the first quarter and had only two total yards after the first two possessions. Brees suffered a rib injury on a sack by Kentavius Street and was subbed out for Taysom Hill for two runs, but came in to finish the drive and then led another scoring drive before half.
Brees said he "felt terrible" before leading that drive before the half. He said the injury could fairly be described as a rib injury but he added that it was a "cumulative thing" and that it might be more than one rib.
"He took a heavy shot," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. "As he came out in second half, he felt it was really impacting him. He’ll get an MRI and an X-ray. His back was sore. He came up to me and said he didn’t feel like he could play."
Brees did not return in the second half as Jameis Winston took over. Brees has recently been on the weekly injury list as “limited” with a shoulder problem. However he looked sharp against the Bucs last week.
Brees finished hitting on 8 of 13 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. Winston hit on 6 of 10 passes for 63 yards but was sacked a few times and had a couple of passes that were way wide of the mark or were nearly intercepted.
However, Winston wasn't expecting to have this big of a role in the game when it started and he'll have a week of enhanced preparation if he's needed next week against Atlanta.
"The game’s not gonna stop for an injury," said Alvin Kamara, who had three scores and was huge in the passing game for both quarterbacks. "When Drew went down, Jameis came in and did what he does all week. Monday through Saturday he’s not at home because he’s the second string quarterback. He’s taking reps.
Brees wasn’t the only injury in a game that saw several starters out for parts of the game. The list included Tre’ Quan Smith, Josh Hill, Marshon Lattimore, Andrus Peat, Malcolm Brown and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Smith and Hill were out with concussions and Brees with the rib, but the Saints are notoriously secretive about injuries and it’s doubtful more will be known about these until Wednesday’s practice.
On the game side of things, the Saints offense was sluggish, running only 21 plays in the first half and gaining 90 yards at the half.
Kamara did score 3 touchdowns and he made some key plays after the Niners appeared to be keying on him early, dropping him for a handful of losses.
Kamara caught 7 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown but only managed 15 yards on 8 carries. He did get two rushing touchdowns.
San Francisco scored a touchdown on a long drive to open the game. They were stopped on the second drive but Deonte Harris muffed a punt and San Francisco got it back and made a field goal to grab a 10-0 lead, making it the fourth time this season the Saints trailed by double digits in the first half.