NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Maybe frigid Lambeau Field can cool off Jeff Garcia.
Garcia warmed up for his playoff visit to Green Bay by throwing
four touchdown passes for the second time this season against New
Orleans, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a 38-0 victory over the
Saints on Sunday.
"It got to a point where we basically were able to do what we
wanted," Garcia said.
What do the Saints need to do to return to being a playoff contender?
Based on the last two games, the Saints have a lot of work to do.
They seemed to be missing the chemistry they had last season. Aaron Brooks wasn't as consistent at quarterback, and the defense wasn't as dominant. The secondary needs to get better. All this needs to improve next season for the Saints to be back in the playoff picture.
But the biggest thing is the chemistry. Their wasn't the same closeness in New Orleans this season. And they weren't playing with the same passion and aggressiveness. By next season, the Saints need to find what was missing.
ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.
Garcia, who came out after one series in the fourth quarter,
completed 14 of 21 passes for 263 yards.
San Francisco (12-4), which recorded its third shutout in the
last six games, had a chance to get a home game in the first round
of the playoffs until a 27-21 upset loss to the Dallas Cowboys last
Green Bay's 34-25 victory over the New York Giants meant that
the 49ers will visit the Packers at Lambeau Field next weekend.
"Hey, I grew up in the cold," said San Francisco coach Steve
Mariucci, a Michigan native. "It doesn't bother me a bit. We don't
care where we play or when we play."
The Saints (7-9) finished the season with four straight losses
and gave up an average of 40 points in those games.
"Any time you lose the last four straight, it's a humbling
experience," subdued Saints coach Jim Haslett said.
Aaron Brooks threw four interceptions and was sacked three times
as New Orleans, the 2000 NFC West champion, was shut out for the
first time since the 49ers beat the Saints 31-0 in 1998.
After struggling on their first two possessions, the 49ers took
advantage of a fumble by Ricky Williams on their 44. On first down,
Garcia found Terrell Owens 10 yards behind Saints cornerback Fred
Thomas for a 56-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
On their next possession, Garcia found Owens again for a 60-yard
touchdown that put San Francisco up 14-0. The two touchdowns were
Owens' only receptions of the day.
"Jeff was just being Jeff," Owens said. "He ran when he had
to, he threw when he had to. He got it going."
In the second quarter, the 49ers recovered Williams' second
fumble, on the Saints 28, setting up Garcia's third touchdown pass,
a 6-yarder to Terry Jackson that put San Francisco ahead 21-0.
Midway through the third quarter, the 49ers' third interception
of Brooks led to a 39-yard field goal that made it 24-0
Garcia threw his fourth TD pass on the first play of the fourth
quarter, hitting J.J. Stokes for a 6-yard score that made it 31-0.
"I connected with Terrell on some deep balls where he blew by
some guys," Garcia said. "I hit J.J. a couple of times on the
sidelines. We tried to open it up a little bit."
Brooks was intercepted for the fourth time in the fourth
quarter, and backup quarterback Tim Rattay marched the 49ers 44
yards for the 49ers' final touchdown, with Terry Jackson running
the last 9.
Brooks, who had nine interceptions in the first 12 games, had 13
in the last four. By the third quarter, the small crowd still in
the stands chanted for Jeff Blake, the quarterback Brooks replaced.
"It was an unbelievable amount of stress," Brooks said. "Not
stress, frustration. I'm not the type to get stressed about
situations. But I am the type, like all of us, to get frustrated
about a lot of situations.
Blake came in with 7:35 left in the game. On first down at the
New Orleans 25, Williams fumbled for a third time, finally
recovering it on the 4, and New Orleans punted on fourth-and-33.
Brooks completed 21 of 33 passes for 119 yards.
Garcia became the first quarterback in franchise history to
throw 30 or more TD passes in consecutive years. ... Saints WR
Willie Jackson had 61 yards receiving to reach 1,000 yards for the
first time. Horn and Jackson became the first Saints teammates with
1,000 receiving yards in the same season ... Saints T Kyle Turley
got the biggest cheer of the game. He tossed his helmet to a group
of fans as he left the field. Injuries: 49ers -- DE John
Engelberger, sprained right ankle. Saints -- WR Joe Horn, sprained
The NFL says it is close but still has yet to interview the four players named along with Peyton Manning in a report five months ago that linked them to PEDs.
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