San Francisco, CA – It was football at its best! A battle to the end, the Forty-Niners left the sellout crowd on their feet to witness one of the best games in a decade. Drew Brees threw a sixty-six yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter with a minute and thirty-seven seconds left.
But the finale was Alex Smith’s 47-yard pass to Vernon Davis for the touchdown and the 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints. It was the first triumph win for San Francisco in nine years. They now await the outcome of tomorrow’s NFC game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. A win by the Giants will give the 49ers the home field.
“We got some spectacular stops on third down and I thought they were outstanding,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Five takeaways in the game, I know special teams contributed to that as well, very opportunistic today. Got pressure on their quarterback and made plays on the ball, it was a terrific job by our defense again.”
The Saints got off to a rocky start due the number one defense in the NFC. Graham got hit and stumbled off the field while catching his breath minutes into the first quarter. Moments later Donte Whitner flat lined Pierre Thomas like he was a rag doll. The hit looked like it might’ve been helmet to helmet but was ruled clean by the referees and the game continued.
Smith connected with Davis for a 49-yard touchdown and the 7-0 lead. While catching the ball between two defenders running into the end zone Vernon and the offense set the tone of the game. Dashon Goldson picked of Brees and returned it to New Orleans 4-yard line for 42-yards. Alex then found Michael Crabtree for a 4-yard touchdown.
“We wanted to come out and play our style of football,” said 49ers defensive coach Vic Fangio. “Which is physical, being a great tackling team and playing with good fundamentals which has carried us all year. We just wanted to play the way we’ve played all year, particularly starting early in the game.”
It gets worse for the Saints, San Francisco punts and the ball bounces off Courtney Roby’s foot for the fumble. 49ers get the ball back, the offense moves down field quickly for a field goal to end the first quarter 17-0. The defense continued to dominate when Whiter made another smashing hit on Darren Sproles who loses the football for another fumble. New Orleans challenged the call and it was reversed, they got the ball and back into the game.
Drew connected with Jimmy for a 14-yard touchdown. He threw his second touchdown to Marques Colston to cut the lead by 3. But another turnover proved costly as the Saints could not tie the game before the end of the half.
“The last time we came here to play the 49ers on Monday night, they were the ones with the five turnovers and we won the game,” Brees said. “It’s funny how things work out, it’s the polar opposite of what we talked about coming into this game. We had a chance to win after five turnovers but this [49ers] defense has been so good taking the ball away.”
San Francisco took over and thought the game was there’s until 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter. And that’s when all hell broke lose! A performance that captivated millions who tuned in saw four touchdowns and a battle to the end. Smith finished 24 for 42 for 299 yards with a 103.2 passer rating. His heroic touchdown came with 2:11 left in the 4th, when he ran for 28-yards with a key block from Joe Staley along the way.
“Once I saw the crack, really it was third-and-eight,” explained Alex. “Once I saw that and got around the edge, I knew I was going to get the first. It was just a matter of whether or not you get the six, Joe made a great block on the safety.”
Throughout the entire season the 49ers talked about hard work first and victory second. With a strong chemistry amongst their players and a coach that seeks perfection everything came together. Including a play called the “Vernon Post”, created by quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst.
They practiced it last week with Davis on the other side of the formation. But today, on the opposite side he did it perfectly while scoring his finale touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the game to seal the San Francisco’s victory.
“Yes, I knew it was coming, we rehearsed it all week in practice,” Vernon said. “Alex knew right away that once I got 12, 14 yards, planted outside foot and looked for the ball. It was the exact same thing, it worked, I had confidence in myself, Alex and the play.”
Written by: Malaika Bobino