No Joe Montana meant no last-minute heroics for the San Francisco 49ers, which was just fine with the New Orleans Saints.
Morten Andersen kicked a 40-yard field goal with 4:43 to play Sunday as the Saints defeated the Montana-less 49ers, 13-10, to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
“It looks good for us, obviously,” New Orleans quarterback Steve Walsh said. “Now we’re even. The picture will be painted Monday night when we play the Rams.”
The Saints, tied with Dallas at 7-8, need the Cowboys to lose to Atlanta next Sunday and a win in their final regular-season game next Monday night against the Rams to get the NFC’s final wild-card playoff berth.
Dallas holds the tiebreaker edge because it beat the Saints earlier in the season.
Montana watched in street clothes as New Orleans recovered four fumbles, the last of which ended San Francisco’s final chance. After the game, 49er Coach George Seifert said Montana had a strained abdominal muscle.
“It flared up since last night,” Seifert said. “I believe he could have played . . . but it was just too much of a risk.”
The 49ers (13-2), with Steve Young at quarterback, drove to the Saints’ 25 in the final minute, but Dexter Carter fumbled a handoff that was recovered by the Saints’ Rickey Jackson with 47 seconds to play.
“Dexter tried to make a move and the ball popped loose,” Young said. “I didn’t feel anything odd on the handoff.”
The Saints’ third fumble recovery--this one by Vaughan Johnson--gave New Orleans the ball at the 49ers’ 40 with 7:58 to play.
After Gill Fenerty gained 12 yards to the San Francisco 23, Andersen easily cleared the uprights for the game-winning field goal, giving New Orleans three victories in its last five games.
Young, one of the NFL’s most mobile quarterbacks, gave the Saints a different set of problems than Montana would have.
Young, starting his first game this season, completed 22 of 37 passes for 208 yards. He also was the game’s leading rusher, gaining 102 yards in eight carries.
The 49ers’ four turnovers was their second-highest total this season. San Francisco committed six turnovers in its other loss, 28-17, to the Rams on Nov. 25.
Walsh completed nine of 25 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown for New Orleans, which has won three of its last six games at Candlestick Park. Walsh was intercepted twice and benched midway through the third quarter.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Walsh said. “I was not happy.”
After falling behind 10-7 early in the second quarter, the 49ers tied the score at 10-10 with 9:24 to play on a 30-yard field goal by Mike Cofer.
New Orleans took its 10-7 lead on Andersen’s 30-yard field goal with 10:52 left in the first half. The Saints drove 34 yards after Vince Buck recovered a fumble by Carter at the 49er 46.