San Francisco 49ers

Halftime recap: 49ers return to puncher's roots

Colin Kaepernick congratulates Frank Gore after a first-half touchdown.
Colin Kaepernick congratulates Frank Gore after a first-half touchdown. Associated Press

The 49ers' went back to their slugger's roots in the first half in New Orleans.

Frank Gore, a forgotten man in recent weeks, has carried the ball 15 times so far, most notably in the red-zone where he did not see any work in the closing seconds of last week's loss to the Rams.

Gore scored on a four-yard touchdown run while the team's other tailback, Carlos Hyde, scored one from nine yards out.

The 49ers got off to a strong start when safety Antoine Bethea, perhaps the team's most steady performer this season, intercepted Drews Brees' third pass of the game and returned it 22 yards to the New Orleans' 19-yard line. The defense finished the half in the same way when Chris Culliver picked off a Brees pass in the end zone.

The 49ers got back to their strength on the opening drive. They handed the ball to Gore three straight times, and on all three he gained yards on the left side. On the third run, Gore ran four yards into the end zone, his first touchdown since Week 2 and the 49ers' first rushing touchdown in six games.

San Francisco ran the ball eight more times on their second drive, going 79 yards and converting three third-downs before Hyde -- again running to the left side -- crashed into the end zone.

The 49ers were three for three on their red-zone opportunities after being abysmal in those situations in preceding weeks.

The last touchdown came on a fade from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin in the near corner of the end zone. Kaepernick hit Boldin on two other big passes on the drive, one a third-down conversion with the crowd as its crescendo.

Kaepernick is 8-13 for 119 yards and a touchdown. After being sacked eight times last week, he has gone down once so far and fumbled on the play.

Brees got the Saints' offense rolling on the team's third drive when he absorbed a huge hit from Justin Smith while delivering a 40-yard pass downfield to rookie receiver Brandin Cooks.

New Orleans came away with a field goal on the drive. On their next possession, Brees and Cooks connected again, this time for a 31-yard touchdown. Cooks, the Saints' first-round draft pick, beat Jimmie Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, on the play, which cut the 49ers' lead to 14-10 at the time.

The 49ers' defense is playing without starters Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis but has played well. Rookie Chris Borland, filling in for Willis, has continued his tackle tear. He leads the team with eight stops.

Nose tackle Ian Williams and return man Bruce Ellington were injured before the half ended and both are questionable to return.

Williams seemed to injure the same ankle he broke last season. Quinton Dial would fill in in he can't play.

Ellington also suffered an ankle injury. Perrish Cox is the backup punt returner.

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