New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka started talking about the San Francisco 49ers last January. Now all he wants to do is forget them as quickly as possible.
The game he labeled "his obsession" turned into his nightmare, quickly erasing thoughts of New Orleans' fast start and showing that San Francisco is still the class of the NFC West.
"They're the best football team I've seen in this league," Ditka said. "I don't care who else there is, what their records are. Certainly the best against me when I coach, I know that."
Steve Young had his fifth straight 300-yard passing game and became the 20th player in NFL history to throw for 30,000 yards in a 31-0 rout.
Chris Doleman's four sacks moved him into fifth place on the career list, and the 49ers (4-1) won by their second largest margin against the Saints.
"Records are great, but I think it's about performing and keeping steady throughout the year," Young said. "We have a standard and we want to keep it. It seems kind of trite, but that is the key."
Young, who left after one series in the fourth quarter, completed 21 of 40 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns. He is now tied with Joe Montana for most consecutive 300-yard passing games.
The Saints (3-2) showed no signs of the scrappy play that helped them open with three straight victories and take the New England Patriots to the wire last week.
Against the lowest-ranked defense in the NFL, New Orleans gained only 167 yards and made only 10 first downs -- just two in the first three quarters, when it was held to 46 total yards. The Saints had only one first down passing and were just 1-for-11 on thir downs.
"We have the best 30th-ranked defense you've ever seen in your life," said linebacker Winfred Tubbs, who jumped from the Saints to the 49ers this spring. "We haven't been playing the type of 49ers defense the last four games. We wanted to come out and change that."
The last time the Saints scored against the 49ers in the Superdome was Nov. 3, 1996. In their past three games, San Francisco has outscored New Orleans 87-7, including back-to-back shutouts.
"A shutout doesn't happen very often," San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci said. "We were lucky enough to get one here last year, but I believe we played even better this time around. Shutouts simply don't happen very often in the NFL."
San Francisco last week tied an NFL record with 22 penalties. This week both teams drew flags: The 49ers had 13 for 125, New Orleans 14 for 115.
The 49ers began trampling the Saints on their first possession, driving 82 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead on Young's 1-yard pass to Greg Clark.
"That first drive they just went down the field and scored and we couldn't stop them. That took a lot out of us," Saints cornerback Tyronne Drakeford said. "There's a big gap between us and them right now. These guys are playing at a championship level, and we're just trying to get to the playoffs."
San Francisco was unable to score another touchdown until the final 10 seconds of the half, getting two of Wade Richey's three field goals. But the Niners outgained the Saints 279 yards to 39 in the first half, including 194-16 passing.
A pass batted down at the goal line by safety Saints Sammy Knight, and penalties -- a holding call nullified a 45-yard punt return for a touchdown by R.W. McQuarters -- left the 49ers short of the end zone on four successive possessions.
Danny Wuerffel was intercepted by defensive end Roy Barker, the second straight week he was picked off by a defensive lineman, before Young completed a 6-yard TD pass to Terrell Owens. He then hit Garrison Hearst for the 2-point conversion to make it 21-0 at the half.
San Francisco opened the second half the same way they opened the game. The 49ers drove 76 yards in eight plays. Young hit Hearst for a 33-yard score four minutes into the half.
Wuerffel, who was pulled with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, completed just 9 of 21 for 95 yards. Three of those completions for 48 yards came in the fourth quarter when San Francisco was coasting. He was also sacked six times and threw an interception.
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