Young survives New Orleans, tosses 4 TDs

The new, vulnerable San Francisco 49ers fell behind the New Orleans Saints Sunday night.

But it only took one quarter for the old, dominating 49ers to make an appearance.

After spotting the Saints an early 10-point lead, San Francisco scored on five consecutive possessions to roll past New Orleans 31-20 at 3Com Park.

San Francisco (8-3) turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions. But with Steve Young tossing four touchdowns passes, the 49ers survived to whip New Orleans for the sixth consecutive time.

The loss dropped the Saints (5-6) one game behind Arizona (6-5) in the race for the final NFC playoff berth.

The 49ers compiled 84 yards, three turnovers and no points on their first four possessions. On their next five, when Young found his rhythm, the 49ers racked up 290 yards while scoring four touchdowns and a field goal.

New Orleans led 10-0 and had the ball at its own 38 with 10 minutes, five seconds left in the second quarter after Young's second fumble and third turnover of the game.

But Saints receiver Sean Dawkins fumbled after gaining 23 yards on a pass from Kerry Collins. San Francisco's Tim McDonald recovered at the San Francisco 26 on a play that seemed to spark the 49ers offense.

San Francisco moved to the Saints 44 where they faced third-and-five. Young, on the way to a 22-of-31, 294-yard game, tossed a screen pass to Terry Kirby, who spun away from Saints linebacker Keith Mitchell for a 19-yard gain.

After hooking up on a 17-yard pass play, Young and Owens combined for an 8-yard touchdown pass, slicing the Saints led to 10-7.

The Saints moved to the 49ers 35, but Doug Brien missed a 53-yard field goal attempt with 2:46 left in the half that gave the 49ers possession at their own 43.

Young completed four of six passes on a 57-yard drive that ended when he threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Owens that put San Francisco ahead for good at 14-10.

Collins brought the Saints back momentarily by completing three passes to set up a 24-yard Brien field goal which cut the 49ers halftime lead to 14-13.

But the comeback was short-lived.

Young's first completion of the second half was an 81-yard touchdown pass to Hearst that put San Francisco up 21-13.

Another Dawkins fumble, this time after an 18-yard gain off a Collins pass, gave San Francisco the ball at the Saints 38. Five plays later, Young fired an 8-yard scoring strike to Jerry Rice and the 49ers were up 28-13 and in control.

Earlier, the Saints jumped to a 10-0 lead as San Francisco continued its troublesome trend of falling behind. The 49ers have trailed by double-digits in the first half of six of their last eight games.

In this game, the 49ers had only themselves to blame as their penalties and turnovers aided the Saints cause.

On the second play of the game, San Francisco's Zack Bronson was called for pass interference while guarding Dawkins. The penalty moved the ball 45 yards to the San Francisco 29. Collins threw three incompletions and Brien booted a 47-yard field goal or a 3-0 New Orleans lead with 14:30 left in the first quarter.

The Saints held that lead as the 49ers turned the ball over on their first two possessions.

With just over two minutes left in the first quarter, the Saints took over at the San Francisco 36 after a 22-yard Andre Hastings punt return.

A 25-yard pass from Collins to Keith Poole moved the Saints to the 49ers 3 and Collins completed the drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge.