Mariucci's bold move does not pay off

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- He hated to do it, but San Francisco 49ers
coach Steve Mariucci spotted the New Orleans Saints a touchdown.

Question on the 49ers: What do you feel is San Francisco's biggest weakness and how can it be fixed?
The 49ers' offense hasn't been able to put teams away, either via the passing game or running game. Plus, the turnovers today really hurt them. Also, I don't believe QB Jeff Garcia is playing at the same level he was at last year. Improvement will come if they're able to find a better offensive rhythm for the entire game.

Question on the Saints: Can they get home-field advantage for the playoffs with such an inconsistent defense?

Saints' fans have reason to be concerned about the defense, to a degree. But their D is opportunistic and creates turnovers at key times. Still, come playoff time, teams need to be strong in all phases of the game. Right now, the Saints' special teams are providing a big boost.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Aaron Brooks scored on a 1-yard run with 1:56 left to seal New
Orleans' 35-27 victory Sunday, but the Saints drew a penalty for
having 12 men on the field. With just one timeout left and not
wanting to waste any more of the clock, Mariucci declined the
penalty and turned to his high-powered offense.

"I've never done that before; has anyone even seen one?''
Mariucci said. "But it seemed to make sense. It was hard to do,
but otherwise we're not getting the ball back.''

Capping a sensational fourth quarter in which their offense
scored 22 points, the Saints (6-1) let San Francisco get to their
39-yard line before shutting down the 49ers.

"We knew this was going to boil down to the fourth quarter,''
Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "No matter what the score was, we
knew the fourth quarter was going to determine the outcome.'''

The 49ers (4-2) got another touchdown pass from Terrell Owens,
but not the kind of big performance expected of him following a
week of self-imposed hype. Following his second touchdown reception
in last week's victory over Seattle, Owens pulled a pen from his
sock, autographed the ball and presented it to his financial
adviser sitting nearby.

After some people criticized the stunt, Owens said black players
were singled out for expressing themselves, but he later backed off
those comments.

On Sunday, Owens was held to just four catches for 61 yards. His
only score came in the first quarter, on a 4-yard pass from Jeff Garcia. Afterward, Owens showed his sense of humor when he lifted
his feet to let his teammates inspect for pens. He then tossed the
ball to a 49ers fan, who promptly dropped it.

There was another autograph episode involving the 49ers, though.
During the fourth quarter, a fan ran onto the field and briefly
joined the team's huddle.

"He had a ball-point pen and was trying to sign my shirt,''
49ers center Jeremy Newberry said. "He could have stabbed me or
something. How did he get out there untouched?''

Last week, as a response to Owens' ball-signing, the NFL told
its teams that pens could be dangerous on the field, and said
players who carry them could be penalized and ejected.

Garcia, who matched a career high with four touchdown passes
against New Orleans last year, was 23-of-39 for 275 yards and a

Saints running back Deuce McAllister, who leads the NFC in
rushing, had 139 yards on 21 carries.

"When the defense was trying to make some adjustments, we said,
'Hey baby, we've got to keep scoring,''' McAllister said. ``We just
wanted to be 6-1.

Brooks completed 23 of 35 passes for 254 yards and three

"I know that we have a lot more fans right now,'' Brooks said.
"That's expected when you winning.''

The 49ers, who scored on three of their four possessions in the
first half, used a 12-play opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. The
Saints answered with an 11-play drive on their first possession,
capped with a 4-yard TD pass from Brooks to McAllister.

San Francisco opened the second quarter with a 2-yard touchdown
run by Garrison Hearst to retake the lead at 14-7. Hearst, who
gained 87 yards on 14 carries, put the 49ers up 24-13 on an 8-yard
touchdown run as the third quarter ended.

The Saints drove 63 yards to open the fourth quarter with a
10-yard touchdown reception by Joe Horn. New Orleans' 2-point
conversion attempt failed, as McAllister leaped over the middle and
into a wall of 49ers. That got the Saints to 24-19 with 12:39 left
in the game.

Saints defensive end Darren Howard then stripped Kevan Barlow of
the football, and Sammy Knight recovered it on the San Francisco
22. Two plays later, Brooks hit Horn for a 20-yard touchdown to
give New Orleans its first lead of the game.

The 2-point attempt, this time with Brooks running the ball,
again failed, and the Saints were up 25-24 with 11:20 left.

A 41-yard field goal by Jose Cortez put San Francisco ahead
again 27-25. But New Orleans came back with a 22-yard field goal,
giving them a 28-27 lead with 3:17 left.

Ken Irvin stepped in front of Tai Streets and grabbed Garcia's
pass, setting up New Orleans' final drive.

Game notes
The 49ers entered the game first in the NFL in yards per
rush (5.4), and third down conversion percentage (48.3). Against
the Saints they averaged 5.7 yards on 25 rushes, and converted nine
of 12 third downs. ... The Saints have sold out 17 straight games.
... Injuries -- Saints: LB J.R. Johnson, hamstring, DT Norman Hand,
hamstring. 49ers: LB Saleem Rasheed, strained right quad, RB
Garrison Hearst, hamstring.

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