No turning back McAllister
Saints RB shows old form in beating 49ers
NEW ORLEANS - Helmet in hand, Deuce McAllister jogged triumphantly into the tunnel of the Louisiana Superdome past celebrating Saints fans howling his name. Then came another thrill.
McAllister's childhood idol, former San Francisco running back Roger Craig, called to congratulate him on his first validating performance since his second knee reconstruction.
"I talked to my hero," McAllister said. "He told me he was proud of me."
San Francisco's shaky run defense had trouble stopping McAllister's power running and New Orleans avoided an early-season hole with a 31-17 victory yesterday.
The Saints' all-time leading rusher hardly looked like he was playing on two reconstructed knees when he bowled over tacklers for first downs, moved the pile, or dived over it for his first touchdown of the season. He entered the game with only two carries for 10 yards this season.
"I'm sure a lot of people weren't giving him a chance to come back," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "He proved a lot of people wrong."
McAllister carried 20 times for 73 yards and had a 10-yard reception to convert a third down.
McAllister, who had his left knee surgically repaired last fall, gave the Saints (2-2) the credible power running threat they needed to open up deep throws for Brees, who certainly knows how to cash in on those.
Brees was 23 of 35 for 363 yards and three scores, including touchdowns of 47 yards to Robert Meachem and 33 yards to Lance Moore. Brees also set up scores with a 52-yard pass to Meachem on a flea flicker involving McAllister, and an 81-yard connection with Devery Henderson.
"We anticipated [McAllister] playing," San Francisco coach Mike Nolan said. "He did a good job, but the things that hurt us the most were the explosive plays we gave up."
Saints coach Sean Payton said he was trying to be cautious and would play the 29-yard-old McAllister when the time was right. With San Francisco allowing an average of 131 yards rushing coming in, this was the right time.
J.T. O'Sullivan was 18 of 36 for 257 yards, but continued to take too many sacks. Having been sacked 13 times through the Niners' first three games, O'Sullivan was brought down six more times, twice by Charles Grant. Three of those sacks helped the Saints limit the 49ers to field goals.
O'Sullivan also fumbled in 49ers territory on one early sack - setting up the Saints' first touchdown - and threw two interceptions in the end zone.
Frank Gore averaged 5.1 yards per run, but San Francisco (2-2) was forced to pass more after falling behind by multiple scores and Gore finished with 82 yards. The 49ers hardly looked like a team coming off two straight victories over Seattle and Detroit. They host the Patriots next Sunday in the teams' first meeting since 2004.
"It was kind of a reverse of the last game," Nolan said. "There's really no one I can point out that played well."