|Jeff Garcia showed no signs of his back injury leading the 49ers to a win on Saturday.(AP)|
After an innocuous 1-yard reception, the 49ers' starting tight end was leveled by cornerback Dale Carter on an aggressive hit -- but a clean one, according to Johnson's teammates.
Johnson tried to get back in the 49ers' huddle, hoping for one more play -- but Garcia sent his good friend to the sideline.
"I don't think he'll remember that," Garcia said. "It's a bad thing for this team. There were a lot of positives in this game, but that's a terrible thing."
After the game, Johnson's teammates heard a dismaying diagnosis: He will miss 10-to-12 weeks while recovering from the broken bone and a concussion, possibly ending his season.
"Eric's injury is a huge blow to the team," said coach Dennis Erickson, who still hasn't lost with the 49ers. "He's a big part of the offense. It's just too bad, because he has been playing so well. Hopefully we'll get him back."
At least there's little worry about Garcia, the 49ers' Pro Bowl quarterback: He played the first three series, going 6-for-7 and leading a TD drive in his first preseason action. He has practiced sporadically in training camp since injuring his back during a summer workout.
"It wasn't even on my mind," Garcia said. "It's on everybody else's mind but mine. I can't allow my mind to think about an injury, or anything else that's not important."
Both teams' offenses made solid, lengthy drives - but while the 49ers finished in the end zone four times, the Saints (1-2) came up short several times, twice settling for field goals by John Carney.
Joe Horn caught an 18-yard pass from Aaron Brooks late in the second quarter for New Orleans' only touchdown. The Saints used their offensive starters late into the third quarter, handing the ball off four straight times to Deuce McAllister during a 16-play, 63-yard drive that ended in another field goal.
"I'm kicking myself in the back, because I missed two passes to Joe Horn," Brooks said. "I feel that we took a step back as a team. Obviously we would like to put some more points on the board, but this is preseason, and it doesn't count for too much."
Brooks was 11-of-16 for 93 yards. McAllister rushed 15 times for 76 yards.
New Orleans coach Jim Haslett was relatively pleased by everything except his defensive secondary. The Saints couldn't shut down any of the 49ers' quarterbacks, who were a collective 22-of-25 for 264 yards.
"We've got to get better," Haslett said. "We haven't stopped the pass in three games. We've got to get coaches and players working on it. I don't know why we're not doing it."
Lloyd had another big game in his quest to earn regular playing time. One play after he was ruled out of bounds on a breathtaking, one-handed grab in the end zone, Lloyd caught a 4-yard TD pass in the second quarter.
But a fluid offensive game didn't feel as rewarding without Johnson, who started 25 games and caught 76 passes in his first two years with the 49ers. He had 36 catches for 321 yards last season despite missing four games with a back injury.
"It's a serious blow, because Eric is a very good player for us," general manager Terry Donahue said. "You throw late in the flat like that, and your guy's going to get blown up."
Thanks to New Orleans' time-consuming drives, the 49ers' third-string quarterback derby didn't get underway until the fourth quarter.
Rookie Ken Dorsey led an 82-yard drive capped by Salaam's 10-yard TD run, but after San Francisco rookie linebacker Raymond Wells intercepted Todd Bouman's tipped pass and returned it 30 yards, Brandon Doman's drive stalled on four plays.
Before the game, the 49ers observed a moment of silence for baseball great Bobby Bonds, who died earlier in the day. Bonds roamed the outfield at Candlestick Park for the San Francisco Giants in seven of his 14 major league seasons.
The Associated Press News Service
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