Colin Kaepernick and Drew Brees traded interceptions at the end of the first half. Brees' turned out to be far more damaging. With 38 seconds, and with the Saints just having picked off Kaepernick, Brees looked for tight end Jimmy Graham to his left. He didn't see outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who is usually rushing from Brees' right, dropping into coverage.
Brooks, who moonlighted as a return man at Virgina, snagged Brees' pass and then outraced Brees for the end zone to knot the game at 14.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, got off to a strong start, leading the 49ers to a 7-0 lead on an impressive, four-play drive that lasted only 2:06. Kaepernick ran into the end zone after he faked an inside handoff to Kendall Hunter and scampered off to his left. Everyone inside the Superdome thought Hunter had the ball - and had been stopped - including some of the Saints.
Kaepernick has shown an excellent knack for extending plays. However, he and the 49ers have faced a number of third-and-long situations in the deafening Louisiana Superdome, and Kaepernick has been let down by two drops - by Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis - and two penalties - by Jonathan Goodwin and Anthony Davis - each of which wiped away first downs.
Kaepernick also made a mistake when, with the 49ers driving for a last-minute score, he didn't see an open receiver on the left sideline and instead went for a deeper target who was double-covered. It was picked off, the first interception of Kaepernick's career.
Kaepenick is 7-12 for 112 yards; Brees is 14-20 for 112 yards. Kaepernick leads all rushers with five carries for 27 yards. He has one more carry than Frank Gore, who has four carries for 12 yards against a Saints defense that entered the game ranked last against the run.
The 49ers appeared to be a bit careless with the ball in the opening half, and they paid for it when Ted Ginn brought in a punt and then started moving before it was secure. The Saints recovered at the San Francisco 10-yard line, and two plays later Brees found Marques Colston in the back of the end zone to put New Orleans up 14-7.
It was the first fumble the sure-handed Ginn has lost since joining the 49ers in 2010. He was replaced by Kyle Williams on the next punt return. Williams also has been handling kick returns.
- Matt Barrows