In a game that quickly dethroned the Denver-Pittsburgh game as the game of these playoffs, the San Francisco 49ers rallied, after leading most of the game, to take the lead twice late. The game winner came with 9 seconds left, from the New Orleans’ 13 yard line, as Alex Smith completed the pass to Vernon Davis at the goal line. Don’t play for the field goal! And Harbaugh did not. Fortune favors the bold, and the 49ers are now moving to the NFC Championship Game.
The New Orleans Saints tried to become the first team since Oakland in 1977, and only the second team all time, to win a playoff game with a -4 turnover margin. New Orleans trailed 17-0 after 3 first quarter turnovers, but fought back and took their first lead on a Darren Sproles 44-yard touchdown catch with 4 minutes remaining, to make the score 24-23. Alex Smith then hit Vernon Davis on a deep sideline route to get in field goal scoring range. Facing a third down, before the two minute warning, and the prospect of a field goal attempt that would leave New Orleans with plenty of time, the 49ers committed what appeared like a costly “too many men in the huddle” penalty to take it from 3rd and 2 to 3rd and 7. However, the play call of the game came next, as Alex Smith ran a designed QB sweep out of shotgun, taking it all the way to the end zone.
Then, the Saints quickly responded when Brees hit Jimmy Graham down the seam, and the 49ers missed the tackle, leaving Graham to race for the end zone. San Francisco got the ball back with 1:32 left, at their own 15, with only one timeout. That’s when Alex Smith led the drive of his life, culminating in a play not every coach makes, letting his quarterback throw for the win with overtime all but assured with little time left.
San Francisco 36, New Orleans 32.
[photo via Getty]