By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
There was only 2:19 left in the game. The Saints had it 1st & 10 at their own 24 yard line. The San Francisco 49ers had just scored to go ahead, 45-40. The 40 year old Drew Bress responded as he usually does when the game is on the line, driving the Saints down the field quickly and efficiently with short accurate passes. It took seven plays and only 1:30, as Brees and Tre'Quan Smith connected on a 18 yard touchdown, to finish off the 75 yard drive. Sean Peyton decided to go the two-point conversion, that failed, however New Orleans had regained the lead with 53 seconds left on the game clock. Saints fans were rocking the Dome and cheering for their team's defense to come up with a game winning stop, and it looked like it was going to happen as the 49ers faced a 4th & 2 at their own 33 yard line. Joe Garoppolo dropped back and hit George Kittle with a short pass to the left. Kittle turned up the sidelines, running over and dragging Saints defenders with him for a 39 yard gain to the Saints 28 yard line. Marcus Williams was flagged for a personal foul, as he grabbed and wouldn't let go of George Kittle's face mask while desperately trying to bring him down. The penalty placed the ball at the 14 yard line with 28 seconds left to play. With the Saints out of timeouts, San Francisco ran down the clock, stopping it with two seconds remaining. Robbie Gould's 30 yard field goal was good. giving the (11-2) San Francisco 49ers, a 48-46 victory. The win improves the 49ers' chances for a first round bye and home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
The Saints played well early, taking a 20-7 lead, as Drew Brees hit Jared Cook on touchdown passes of 38 & 26 yards. The second quarter started with a bang, as Brees added his third scoring toss on the first play of the quarter, connecting on a 3 yard touchdown pass to Josh Hill. On the very next play, Garoppolo found Emanuel Sanders deep on a 75 yard touchdown strike. Gould's PAT made the score 20-14, Saints. New Orleans would respond with a 12 play, 84 yard drive, eating up 7:14 off the clock. Drew Brees would cap off the drive with a QB Sneak from the one yard line on 4th down. 27-14, Saints. San Francisco however would dominate the rest of the first half as they continued to move the ball through the air. Garoppolo continued to have his way with the Saints defense, as the 49ers scored twice more before halftime. With 5:59 left, Emmanuel Sanders threw a 35 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Raheem Mostert on a trick play that fooled the Saints badly. After a three & out by New Orleans, the Niners drove 80 yards in 9 plays, scoring on a 10 yard TD run by Mostert, to go ahead at 28-27.
The third quarter began with the Saints defense intercepting Garoppolo on the third play of the half. However, New Orleans could only manage a field goal out of the opportunity, but re-took the lead, 30-27. The Saints would get the ball right back, forcing the Niners to go three and out. On the first snap of the possession, Alvin Kamara fumbled and DeForest Buckner recovered the ball for San Fran at the Saints 20. Garoppolo wasted no time, hitting George Kittle for a 5 yard touchdown two plays later. 35-30, 49ers with 9:40 to go in the 3rd quarter. The Saints responded, with a nice 10 play drive that ended with a Wil Lutz field goal, ending the scoring in the quarter.
The Niners began the 4th quarter with a 14 play scoring drive that ate up 6:57 off the clock. On 2nd & goal from the Saints six yard line, Jimmy Garoppolo connected with Kendrick Bourne in the end zone. 42-33, Niners with 8:59 to go in the game. The scoring track meet continued as the Saints answered quickly to pull within two points as Brees completed a 21 yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. Robbie Gould would kick a 41 yard field goal with 2:23 left to increase the Niner's lead to 45-40, and set up the explosive ending. The Saints defense which stood tall over the last two weeks with late game heroics to preserve victories, was simply over-matched by the 49ers offensive attack. Jimmy Garoppolo out played Drew Brees and finished with 26/35, 349 yards passing & four touchdowns. The heartbreaking defeat puts New Orleans at 10-3, and drops them to the #3 seed behind Green Bay. Next for the Saints is a Monday Night Football match up with the Indianapolis Colts in the Mercedes Benz Super Dome.