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November 17, 2013
Halftime: Strong defense -- including by QB Kaepernick -- keeping 49ers close


Colin Kaepernick threw his first touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin since Week 4, but it was the quarterback's defensive play that stood out in the first half.

A would-be interception and touchdown by Saints backup cornerback Corey White turned into a touchback for the 49ers after Kaepernick hustled to the pylon. With Kaepernick closing in, White fumbled the ball out of the side of the end zone, giving the 49ers the ball at their own 20-yard line.

The 49ers then drove into Saints territory, setting up Phil Dawson's 55-yard field goal. That made the score 10-7 and gave San Francisco its only lead of the half.
It turned out to be short-lived.

Dawson's ensuing kickoff was short and Saints returner Travaris Cadet brought it back 82 yards to the San Francisco 21-yard line. That set up a short-touchdown run by fullback Jed Collins that gave New Orleans its current, 14-10 lead.

The 49ers began the game like they ended the last one - struggling to convert first downs or mustering anything positive on offense. They had to burn one time out early in the game. Two ill-advised challenges by Jim Harbaugh took away the others, and when the 49ers got the ball with 1:58 remaining in the period, they couldn't stop the clock.

Their touchdown was set up when Saints return man Lance Moore muffed a punt and Ray "Bubba" Ventrone pounced on the ball at the 11-yard line. The 49ers special teams have three takeaways in the last four games.

Kaepernick immediately threw to Jon Baldwin in the end zone, but the receiver - on track for more snaps than he's seen all season -- bobbled it on his way to the ground. No matter. On the next play, Kaepernick hit Boldin with a back-shoulder pass against White, who was in the game for injured starter Jabari Greer.

The 49ers also lost a starting cornerback when Tarell Brown injured his ribs. That means Tramaine Brock will assume Brown's role and Eric Wright, who played sparingly in the first half, will come in on nickel downs.

Kaepernick is 10-19 for 64 yards. Frank Gore leads the team with seven carries for 33 yards. Drew Brees, who leads the NFC in passing, was held to 97 yards in the first half.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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