NFL: Deuce returns and Saints beat 49ers
By BRETT MARTEL
By BRETT MARTEL
NEW ORLEANS — Deuce McAllister disappeared into a pile of players at the line of scrimmage. Then the pile started moving.
The forceful 5-yard gain on McAllister's first carry of the day delighted the Louisiana Superdome crowd, which rained down howls of "Deeuuuce!"
McAllister was officially back, and now New Orleans is back to .500.
McAllister gained a total of 83 yards, scoring his first touchdown since his second major knee surgery last fall, and the Saints (2-2) stopped a two-game losing skid with a 31-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
"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.
He gave the Saints 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. There was also a 5-yard TD pass to Moore — and Brees did all of this with two top receivers, Marques Colston (thumb) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (abdomen), unable to play.
"It felt like we played a great all-around game today," Brees said, "and Deuce ran his heart out."
Helmet in hand, McAllister jogged toward the locker room triumphantly past celebrating Saints fans calling out his name. Then came another thrill.
McAllister's childhood idol, former San Francisco running back Roger Craig, called to congratulate him.
"I talked to my hero," said McAllister, who had operations on his right knee in 2005 and left knee last fall. "He told me he was proud of me."
The Saints' all-time leading rusher hardly looked like he was playing on two rebuilt knees when he bowled over tacklers for first downs, moved the pile or dived over it for his first touchdown of the season.
"I can still play another quarter," McAllister quipped.
In close losses at Washington and Denver, the Saints were stuffed on a half-dozen short-yardage situations. Saints fans flooded call-in shows with complaints about coach Sean Payton's reluctance to run McAllister, who'd had only two carries — but gained 5 yards on each — during the opening three weeks.
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.
"We just felt by the nature of the game plan that this week we had a chance to run the ball a little bit more," Payton said. "Those were some tough yards that he was getting for us."
Niners coach Mike Nolan said he expected McAllister to play a featured role this week.
"He did a good job, but the things that hurt us the most were the explosive plays we gave up," Nolan said.
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 Niners to field goals.
O'Sullivan fumbled in 49ers territory on one early sack by Will Smith, setting up the Saints' first touchdown.
O'Sullivan also threw two interceptions in the end zone, first to Kevin Kaesviharn and then to rookie Tracy Porter, who had his first career interception and first-career sack.
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 Niners hardly looked like a team coming off two straight victories over Seattle and Detroit.
"The real frustrating thing ... is that I thought we moved the ball well, especially early, but then once we got into the red zone we couldn't score," 49ers receiver Anraz Battle said. "It's tough to go all the way down the field and then have the drive stall."<
Notes: Saints rookie DT Sedrick Ellis had his first career sack. ... San Francisco's defense had not allowed more than 182 yards passing in any of its first three games. ... Moore's 101 yards receiving and two TDs were career highs.