NFL: San Francisco 49ers fall further behind in NFC West after loss in New Orleans
Last Updated: 18/11/13 1:50am
Josh Hill of the New Orleans Saints celebrates his touchdown with team-mates Robert Meachem and Zach Strief
The New Orleans Saints stretched their perfect record at home this season to 6-0 - though they left it late to see off the San Francisco 49ers.
Garrett Hartley kicked three field goals in the fourth quarter, the last of them as time expired from 31 yards out, to see the Saints to a 21-20 triumph.
It was a particularly important performance from Hartley, with New Orleans' kicker having missed four field goals in the team's previous three games. They had worked out other kicking options in the week but in the end kept faith in their long-time starter.
Marques Colston caught a 20-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal on what was also a special personal night for the wide receiver.
The sixth-round draft pick finished with five catches for 80 yards to become the Saints' all-time leader in yards receiving with 7,922, passing Eric Martin's two-decade-old record of 7,854.
Josh Hill's first career TD catch and a one-yard scoring run from full-back Jed Collins, also his maiden trip into the end zone, had given the hosts a 14-10 half-time lead.
The margin could have been even greater had cornerback Cory White not lost the ball forwards as he dived to get into the end zone after an interception.
Having seen his pass picked off, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick got back to put White under pressure. It turned out to be a 10-point swing, as the missed opportunity for the Saints, which resulted in a touchback and their opponents getting possession back, was followed by a 49ers field goal.
Phil Dawson's 55-yarder put the visitors 10-7 up following Anquan Boldin's earlier 11-yard scoring pass, while Kaepernick then hit Vernon Davis on a 17-yard strike to make it 17-14 during the third quarter.
However the 49ers failed to score another point after that and although the Saints were far from their fluent best on offense, including giving up three turnovers, they continued to put Hartley in range to add points.
The defeat for San Francisco sees them slip even further back of the Seattle Seahawks, who thrashed the Minnesota Vikings 41-20 in week 11, in the race to win the NFC West.
Percy Harvin made an impact in his season debut for the Seahawks against his former employers, returning a kick-off 58 yards late in the first half to set up one of two touchdown passes for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Tail-back Marshawn Lynch also caught a scoring pass whilst rushing twice into the end zone to help Seattle record their franchise-record 13th straight home win. They are now 10-1 for the year heading into their bye week.