NEW ORLEANS -- Eric Wright's 49ers debut came just in time to help a cornerbacks unit that lost starter Tarell Brown to a rib injury in Sunday's 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Brown had to be carted into the locker room after a touchdown-saving tackle on Pierre Thomas at the 1-yard line in the second quarter. Brown's exit meant more action for nickel back Tramaine Brock and also plenty for Wright, who was activated last week off the non-football-injury/illness list.
"In retrospect, I haven't played in a game in a year, but at the same time, I have a lot of experience," said Wright, a seventh-year veteran. "Mentally, I'm very comfortable. Physically, it's coming to me."
Brown has started every game since 2011, and judging by how gingerly he left the locker room, chances are Brock will start next Monday's game at Washington while Wright moves into the nickel-back role. Left guard Mike Iupati's troublesome left knee forced him out of the game with 4:16 remaining in the third quarter. Iupati walked off the field with trainers' assistance but had to be carted into the locker room.
Iupati has started every game since his 2010 rookie season, and the 49ers have started the same five linemen since 2012. Adam Snyder replaced Iupati. Safety Eric Reid, coming off the second concussion of his rookie season, made it through healthy while totaling six tackles and a third-down pass defense. "I felt fine. There were some pretty physical hits that game, and I have no symptoms, so that's good," said Reid, a Louisiana native who bought nearly 60 tickets for friends and family. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith overcame illness to play nearly half the defensive snaps while rotating with starter Dan Skuta. Smith said he's been battling a cold throughout the week.
Smith vomited behind the team bench while the Saints began their first touchdown drive. Smith checked in five plays later but couldn't get to Drew Brees, who completed a 44-yard pass to Robert Meachem to spark the 97-yard march to a 7-0 lead.
Smith said rotating with Skuta wasn't tiring, adding, "I'm in pretty good shape." Linebacker NaVorro Bowman said after his team-high performance of 14 tackles: "I don't even know how to be mad right now. ... We plan so hard for nothing." Kendall Hunter gained 5 yards on first carry at the Superdome since he tore an Achilles here last November Two snaps later, Hunter broke a tackle for a 5-yard run a on third-and-3 conversion. He lost 3 and 6 yards on his other two runs. Safety Bubba Ventrone recovered a muffed punt by the Saints' Lance Moore to set up the 49ers' first touchdown. Vernon Davis' touchdown catch was his eighth this season and the most since he caught 13 in 2009. He has 48 for his career, tied with Dwight Clark for fifth-most in 49ers history. Brees recorded his 16th fourth-quarter comeback win as a Saint. After taking a 10-7 lead on Phil Dawson's season-long 55-yard field goal, the 49ers yielded an 82-yard kickoff return to Travaris Cadet. Marques Colston finished with five catches for 80 yards to become the Saints' all-time leader in yards receiving with 7,923, passing Eric Martin's two-decade-old mark of 7,854.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.