If you thought the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints clash was overhyped, you've realized by just how wrong you were. It was a heavyweight bout in every way but, in the end, the 49ers walked away with the 48-46 victory over the Saints.
Drew Brees marched the Saints down the field rather effortlessly on their first offensive drive of the game, only to see Jimmy Garoppolo do the same with big help from Emmanuel Sanders. Not to be outdone on his own field, Brees used stellar field position given to him by a 51-yard kick return by Deonte Harris -- who had 76 return yards in the first quarter -- to ultimately hit tight end Jared Cook for their second touchdown connection of the day, and the catch itself was jaw-dropping.
Things actually escalated from there, if you can believe it, and in a major way.
Two of the best defenses in the land could not contain the high-powered opposition for much of the contest, but that did change a bit in the third quarter when both clubs landed their first takeaway of the game. The Saints could only muster a field goal after theirs, but Garoppolo linked with the talented George Kittle to push the issue in the hostile air of Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Things got that much hotter and that much heavier as the fourth quarter went on, and in a game that included everything -- including controversy by way of a botched fake punt that landed no flag as the Saints had hoped for -- a well-deserved victor finally emerged.
What a ride.
Why the 49ers won
Winning on the road is difficult. Winning on the road against the Saints is even more so. Doing both of these things on a day when your usually dominant defense is getting surgically dismantled by Drew Brees if a virtual impossibility, but that's exactly what Garoppolo and the 49ers were able to do. They overcame injury and mistakes to still rack up points and outduel Brees and Co. in a game they absolutely had to have -- taking a big step back in the direction of possible home-field advantage in the playoffs on the boot of Robbie Gould, who sealed the deal as the clock hit all zeroes.
Why the Saints lost
It certainly wasn't because of Brees, who put up 349 yards on 29 for 40 passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The problem was the vaunted Saints defense got scorched by Garoppolo, and the offense losing tight end Jared Cook to injury hurt them in a major way -- the tight end left the game early with a concussion and did not return -- considering he accounted for two Saints touchdowns before being knocked out of the contest. They were still able to rally behind Michael Thomas, but a porous secondary had no answers for Sanders and Co., with Sanders himself hanging 157 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown, 35 passing yards and one passing TD on New Orleans.
This has to go to someone who can be viewed easily as the Player of the Game. Sanders not only contributed big with his hands but also with his arm -- this 35-yard touchdown marking only one of at least two game-changing plays by the veteran wideout -- and the accuracy under pressure alone is jaw-dropping.
Play of the Game
Fourth-and-2 with the game on the line in hostile territory? Say no more.
Bosa did his job in Week 14
"Nick Bosa is a Visa card -- everywhere you want to be." - Me (after seeing Bosa shine in an otherwise offensive game)
The Saints will now head north for a battle with the Indianapolis Colts, while the 49ers head to Atlanta to face the Falcons.
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