What's new Saints starting QB Luke McCown really like? Easy going on outside, fierce competitor on inside _lowres

New Orleans Saints' Luke McCown (7) and Drew Brees (9) on the sidelines against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. The Saints won 28-10. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

WHERE: The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

TV: Fox

RADIO: WWL-AM, 870 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge

RECORDS: The 49ers and Saints are both 4-4.

LAST WEEK: Having been sacked a staggering eight times, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick lost a fumble at the goal-line with 2 seconds left in the game as the St. Louis Rams defeated San Francisco 13-10. Meanwhile, the Saints overcame turnovers on their opening two possessions to win 28-10 at Carolina, their first away victory in their last eight regular-season road trips.

COACHES: 49ers, Jim Harbaugh, 4th season (40-15-1); Saints, Sean Payton, 8th season (77-43)


Offensive stats, per game (league rank in parentheses)

Total yards: Saints, 436.5 (2nd); 49ers, 345.6 (19th)

Rushing: Saints, 129.5 (7th); 49ers, 119.5 (11th)

Passing: Saints, 307 (3rd); 49ers, 226.1 (22nd)

Points: Saints, 28.4 (5th); 49ers, 21 (23rd)

Defensive stats, per game (league rank in parentheses)

Total yards: Saints, 370.5 (20th); 49ers, 291.9 (2nd)

Rushing: Saints, 102.1 (10th); 49ers, 85.6 (5th)

Passing: Saints, 268.4 (27th); 49ers, 206.2 (3rd)

Points: Saints, 24.8 (21st); 49ers, 22.2 (15th)


49ers: QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis, WR Anquan Boldin, DE Justin Smith, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Perrish Cox

SAINTS: QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Jimmy Graham, DE Cameron Jordan, LB Junior Galette, CB Keenan Lewis


Offense: Kaepernick’s protection is entering the game against the Saints having just turned in its worst performance of 2014. Aside from the season-high eight times Kaepernick was sacked by St. Louis, he had exchange problems with rookie center Marcus Martin, whose first start was in the loss to the Rams following a season-ending leg injury to the more experienced Daniel Kilgore. The exchange issues were most glaring on the game-defining fumbled snap at the goal-line by Kaepernick at the end of regulation.

Saints pass rushers such as Junior Galette (six quarterback sacks) and Cameron Jordan (four) will no doubt be a tough test for those in charge of protecting Kaepernick, who this season has thrown for 1,956 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions on 165-of-257 passing (64.2 percent). But expect San Francisco to come to New Orleans having made adjustments.

Defense: As has been the case ever since coach Jim Harbaugh took over the 49ers in 2011 and with him brought defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, San Francisco is among the best in the NFL at stopping opponents from gaining yards on the ground or the air.

The players responsible for that are many, but one to keep an eye on is cornerback Perrish Cox. His four interceptions have him in a three-way tie for second in the NFL, and his two fumble recoveries mean he is single-handedly responsible for almost half of San Francisco’s 13 takeaways. A Saints team that’s given the ball away 15 times midway through this season should be especially mindful of ball security with someone as opportunistic as Cox around.

Special teams: The 49ers’ average of 24.9 yards per kick return is better than most NFL teams. Kicker Phil Dawson has missed four of his 18 tries, but a 55-yard field goal he has to his name is tied for the fifth-longest make in the NFL this season.


— Jim Harbaugh has been a recurring nemesis for the Saints since his arrival in San Francisco in 2011. His first 49ers team eliminated New Orleans from the divisional playoffs; then, with Payton suspended in the wake of the bounty scandal in 2012, the 49ers came to the Superdome and again got the best of the Saints.

With Payton back on the sidelines, the Saints at last repaid Harbaugh in kind by vanquishing the 49ers 23-20. But the 49ers complained vehemently that the referee crew erred in calling unnecessary roughness on a strip-sack-fumble recovery San Francisco had registered on Saints quarterback Drew Brees which would’ve given the visitors the ball with a 20-17 lead and 3:12 to go.

New Orleans subsequently hit two field goals and got a defensive stop in between to avenge the pair of losses they’d been dealt by Harbaugh’s 49ers.

— Before signing with the Saints in June, veteran center Jonathan Goodwin was with the 49ers from 2011 through 2013. He appeared in three consecutive NFC title games as well as a Super Bowl with the 49ers.

Prior to his time in San Francisco, Goodwin spent 2006 to 2010 with the Saints and won Super Bowl XLIV with them. He’ll certainly have a unique perspective on the upcoming game as he tries to return to action after missing the Saints’ two previous contests with a knee and ankle issue.


Saints running back Mark Ingram is up for his second straight FedEx Ground Player of the Week award following New Orleans’ 28-10 win at Carolina on Thursday night, his team announced Tuesday.

Ingram ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns off a career-high 30 carries against the Panthers. Four days earlier, in a 44-23 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome over the Packers, Ingram picked up 172 yards and a score on 24 carries, which propelled him to a FedEx Ground Player of the Week award. Fans can vote for the award at NFL.com/FedEx. ...

... Cornerback Rod Sweeting, who played in nine regular-season games for the Saints as an undrafted rookie in 2013, signed with 5-3 Buffalo’s practice squad on Tuesday, the Bills announced.