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Saints Lose Heavyweight Battle 48-46 to the 49ers

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It was a thriller, but penalties doomed the Saints

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a 26-18 Thanksgiving win in Atlanta that gave them a third consecutive NFC South crown, the New Orleans Saints (10-3) were coming home to their biggest challenge of the year against the high-flying San Francisco 49ers (11-2). A win today would mean another big step towards getting one of the two coveted top seeds in the NFC playoffs. A loss and the Saints would likely have to win their remaining three games to have a chance at a bye week in the postseason.

Here is how the game unfolded:

IN THE FIRST HALF, the Saints would take the ball after the 49ers had deferred and march right down the field with a combination of passes and runs by Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. After getting into 49ers territory on a pass to Taysom Hill, Brees would find his tight end Jared Cook on 3rd-and-10 from the 49ers 38-yard line for a touchdown, giving the Saints a 7-0 lead.

Undeterred, the 49ers would break tendency and come out passing the ball on their first possession, exploiting the suddenly slumping Eli Apple. San Francisco, on 3rd-and-goal, would find the end zone on a throw from Jimmy Garoppolo to Kendrick Bourne to tie the game 7-7.

The Saints would respond by saying: anything you can do, I can do better, with Deonte Harris returning the kickoff to the Saints’ 45-yard line and New Orleans driving 55 yards for another touchdown pass from Brees to Jared Cook. The Saints would aggressively go for two and fail however, leading 13-7 with 4:51 left in the game.

On the second 49ers drive, the Saints’ defense would force the first three-and-out of the game and Deonte Harris would return the punt to the 49ers 29-yard line. From there the Saints would drive to the 49ers goal line and Drew Brees would throw his third touchdown of the game, this time to his tight end Josh Hill, giving the Saints a 20-7 lead.

On their very next drive, the 49ers would need only one play, as the Saints’ defense would allow Emmanuel Sanders to go for 75 yards touchdown bomb from Jimmy Garoppolo, bringing the score to 20-14 in favor of the Saints in a frantic game.

Deonte Harris would have his worst return yet on the ensuing kickoff, bringing the ball out to just the Saints’ 16-yard line. New Orleans would not mind, as the Saints would drive 84 yards for another touchdown, a 4th-and-goal patented leap into the end zone by Drew Brees. The drive was highlighted by a 31-yard pass play to Latavius Murray. The Saints led 27-14 with 7:29 left in the second quarter.

In a crazy first half, the 49ers would go for a big play again, after getting into Saints’ territory on a pass play and a run by Raheem Mostert, San Francisco would run a double reverse, with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders throwing a touchdown pass to running back Raheem Mostert for a touchdown and a 27-20 Saints’ lead.

On their next possession, the Saints would go three-and-out for the first time of the game and punt, with the 49ers taking over trailing by only six points.

On their next drive, San Francisco would once again find a lot of green grass, easily getting into Saints’ territory on a run by Matt Breida. Raheem Mostert would eventually get into the end zone on a run up the middle, giving the 49ers their first lead of the day at 28-27.

The Saints would not accomplish much with 45 seconds on the clock and go into halftime trailing 28-27.

———

IN THE SECOND HALF, the Saints would kickoff to the 49ers, who would take over at their 20-yard line. On the third play of the drive, Jimmy Garoppolo would be intercepted by linebacker Craig Robertson on a pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders. The Saints would take the first turnover of the game and convert it into three points, after gaining only three yards from San Francisco’s 40-yard line. Will Lutz would drill a 55-yard field goal to give the Saints the lead back at 30-28.

On the ensuing 49ers drive, New Orleans would force its second three-and-out of the game. But on the Saints’ first play with the ball back, Alvin Kamara would fumble, the first lost fumble for the Saints all year.

The 49ers would not waste the opportunity: in two plays they would go 20 yards with Jimmy Garoppolo finding his tight end George Kittle for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 35-30 lead.

The Saints would take the ball at their own 25-yard line after a touchback and make more use of the running game to get into 49ers territory. New Orleans would stall at San Francisco’s 31-yard line and settle for a Wil Lutz’s 48-yard field goal, making the score 35-33 49ers.

On the next 49ers drive, the Saints’ defense would once again bow its neck and force yet another three-and-out by the 49ers. The Saints would start their next drive with good field position at midfield, but be setback by a penalty on third down, the Saints’ first penalty of the game. On 4th down, the Saints would attempt a fake instead of punting, but the pass from Taysom Hill to Tre’Quan Smith would fall incomplete, with the 49ers taking over at their own 45-yard line.

The 49ers would take the ball and drive it deep into Saints’ territory, converting several third downs, but notably two crucial penalties on rookie cornerback C.J. Gerdner-Johnson that kept 49ers drive alive, allowing the 49ers to reach the end zone and take a 42-33 lead, their biggest of the game.

The Saints would respond on their next drive, highlighted by a 49-yard catch and run by the inevitable Michael Thomas inside the 49ers red zone. thomas would cap his drive, receiving a 21-yard pass from Drew Brees to bring the Saints within two points once again, at 42-40.

As they had done all day, the 49ers would respond, using the running game to bleed the clock and drive deep into Saints territory, forcing the Saints the start using their timeouts. On 2nd-and-5 from the Saints’ 19-yard line, the 49ers would get cute and try to pass, leading to a sack of Jimmy Garoppolo by Vonn Bell. San Francisco would settle for a Robbie Gould field goal and take a 45-40 lead with 2:19 left in the game.

Deonte Harris would return the short kickoff to the Saints’ 24-yard line, and Drew Brees would drive the Saints 76 yards for a touchdown to Tre’Quan Smith. The Saints would miss on the two-point conversion however, leading only by one at 46-45 with 53 seconds left in the game.

With 53 seconds to go, the 49ers would take over at their 25-yard line. On 4th-and-2 with 20 seconds to go, the 49ers would convert with George Kittle going deep into Saints’ territory and adding on a facemask penalty on Marcus Williams. San Francisco would eventually attempt a 30-yard field goal that Robbie Gould would make and give San Francisco a 48-46 win.

The Saints are now 10-3, but they will have to look in the mirrow when it comes to their defensive effort, which was spotty, albeit against the very good San Francisco offense.

The 49ers at 11-2 have the inside track for the number one seed in the NFC, but New Orleans, by winning out, can still give itself the chance to get one of the top two seeds in the conference.

———

Here is how the game unfolded drive-by-drive:

FIRST HALF

First Quarter

  • 49ers win the toss and defer, Deonte Harris returns the kickoff to the Saints’ 27-yard line. Saints get a first down on a swing pass to Alvin Kamara. Brees finds Michael Thomas for a first down at midfield. Saints get into 49ers territory on a pass to Taysom Hill. Drew Brees finds Jared Cook for a 38-yard touchdown.
  • NO: 7 - SF: 0
  • 49ers start at their 25-yard line and Jimmy Garoppolo finds Emmnanuel Sanders for a 19-yard catch on the first play. On the next play, Garoppolo finds Sanders for a 31-yard play into Saints territory. On the third play, Garoppolo finds Debo Samuel into the Saints’ red zone. Garoppolo finds Kendrick Bourne for a touchdown.
  • NO: 7 - SF: 7
  • Deonte Harris returns the kickoff to the Saints’ 46-yard line. the Saints lose 7 yards on the first play, a toss to Alvin Kamara. Brees finds Ted Ginn Jr. for a first down in 49ers territory. Saints get to the edge of the red zone on a run by Latavius Murray. Brees finds Jared Cook in the end zone for a touchdown. Cook is hurt on the play and the Saints go for two, but fail to convert.
  • NO: 13 - SF: 7
  • 49ers take over at their 25-yard line. On the third play of the drive, on 3rd-and-12, Demario Davis sacks Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers go 3-and-out.
  • Deonte Harris returns the punt to the 49ers 29-yard line. The Saints get inside the red zone on an end around to Deonte Harris. Saints run to the 49ers 2-yard line as the quarter ends.

Second Quarter

  • Drew Brees finds Josh Hill for a touchdown on the first play of the quarter.
  • NO: 20 - SF: 7
  • 49ers take over at their 25-yard line and Jimmy Garoppolo finds Emmanuel Sanders for a 75-yard touchdown, on a play where Marcus Williams was beat.
  • NO: 20 - SF: 14
  • Deonte Harris returns the kickoff to the Saints’ 16-yard line. Saints get a first down on a run by Latavius Murray. Saints get into 49ers territory on a run by Alvin Kamara. Latavius Murray gets into the 49ers’ red zone on a swing pass to the 15-yard line. Saints get to first-and-goal at the 49ers 5-yard line. On 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line, Drew Brees leaps a breaks the plane of the goal line for a touchdown.
  • NO: 27 - SF: 14
  • 49ers take over at their 25-yard line. On the first play, Garoppolo finds Deebo Samuel for 19 yards. 49ers get into the Saints’ territory on a run by Raheem Mostert. 49ers use a trick play reverse, and Emmanuel Sanders finds Raheem Mostert for a touchdown.
  • NO: 27 - SF: 21
  • Saints take over at their 25-yard line and Taysom Hill runs for 6 yards on the first play. Nick Bosa blows the play on 3rd-and-one as the Saints are forced to punt for the first time.
  • 49ers take over at their 20-yard line. On 3rd-and-10, Garoppolo finds George Kittle for a first down to keep the 49ers drive alive. Matt Breida runs for 28 yards into Saints’ territory as the two-minute warning hits. 49ers get into the Saints’ red zone on another end around. On first-and-goal, Raheem Mostert runs into the end zone for a touchdown.
  • NO: 27 - SF: 28
  • Deonte Harris returns the kickoff to the Saints’ 28-yard line, but New Orleans runs out of time. At halftime, the 49ers lead 28-27.

SECOND HALF

Third Quarter

  • 49ers return the kickoff to their 21-yard line. Emmanuel Sanders gets a 15-yard catch to start the half. On the fourth play of the drive, Craig Robertson intercepts a pass from Garoppolo that bounced off the hands of Emmnanuel Sanders at the 49ers 40-yard line.
  • Saints take over at the over at the 49ers 40-yard line, but only gain three yards. Wil Lutz drills a 55-yard field goal.
  • NO: 30 - SF: 28
  • 49ers take over at their 25-yard line. On 3rd-and-one, the Saints stuff the 49ers run and force San Francisco to line up for a punt.
  • Saints fair catch the punt at their 20-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Alvin Kamara fumbles and the 49ers recover at the Saints’ 20-yard line.
  • 49ers get inside the Saints’ 10-yard line and Jimmy Garoppolo finds George Kittle for a touchdown.
  • NO: 30 - SF: 35
  • Saints take over at their 25-yard line, Brees finds Michael Thomas for nine yards on the first play. Latavius Murray gets to midfield on a 16-yard run. Saints get into 49ers territory on a pass to Michael Thomas. Saints go for it on 4th-and-one at the 49ers 40-yard line and Taysom Hill bulldozes his way to the first down. Saints use the running game profusely during the drive. Saints eventually start passing and stall. Wil Lutz makes a 48-yard field goal.
  • NO: 33 - SF: 35
  • 49ers take over at their 25-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Mario Edwards sacks Jimmy Garoppolo. 49ers settle for a short gain on third down and punt.
  • Saints start their drive at midfield and Deonte Harris runs into 49ers territory for a first down. Michael Thomas is called for a pass interference penalty on third down, the first penalty on the Saints on the day. Saints go for a fake pass, but the pass is incomplete and the 49ers take the ball at their 45-yard line.
  • 49ers take over at their own 45-yard line and face a 2nd-and-11 as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

  • 49ers quickly face a 3rd down play, but a penalty on C.J. Gardner-Johnson keeps the 49ers drive alive and into Saints’ territory. 49ers convert another third down to get inside the Saints’ 40-yard line. 49ers get into the red zone on a pass to Deebo Samuel who beat Eli Apple again on the play. On yet another 3rd down, the Saints are penalized and keep the niners drive alive. Jimmy Garoppolo finds Kendrick Bourne for a touchdown.
  • NO: 33 - SF: 42
  • Saints take over at their 25-yard line. On third down, Brees is sacked for the first time of the game, but a holding penalty on Richard Sherman gives the Saints a first down. On the next play, Drew Brees finds Michael Thomas for a 49-yard catch to the 49ers 15-yard line. two plays later, Drew Brees finds Michael Thomas for a touchdown.
  • NO: 40 - SF: 42
  • 49ers take over at their 25-yard line and convert the first third down of the drive. 49ers run an end-around to Deebo Samuel for 31 yards to the Saints’ 34-yard line. On 2nd down, Vonn Bell sacks Jimmy Garoppolo for a big 11-yard loss. On third down, Saints stop the 49ers who go out of bounds. Robbie Gould makes a 41-yard field goal.
  • NO: 40 - SF: 45
  • Saints take over at their 24-yard line after a 24-yard return by Harris. Brees finds Tre’Quan Smith for a first down on the first play of the drive, which leads to the two-minute warning. Brees finds Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. deep into 49ers territory. Saints get into the red zone on a penalty on the 49ers, which keeps their drive alive. On the very next play, Drew Brees finds Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown. Saints go for two but fail to convert.
  • NO: 46 - SF: 45

49ers take over at their 25-yard line with 53 seconds to go. On 4th-and-2 with 39 seconds to go, Garoppolo would find George Kittle for a 39-yard gain putting the 49ers instantly in field goal range after a facemask penalty on safety Marcus Williams. Gould makes a 30-yard field goal, to give the 49ers the win.

  • NO: 46 - SF: 48

Poll

Who gets your Saints game ball after today’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Deonte Harris, who really set a positive tone for the team
    (38 votes)
  • 12%
    Jared Cook, who was balling before getting hurt
    (53 votes)
  • 40%
    Drew Brees, who led the team back from a 9-point deficit
    (168 votes)
  • 4%
    Wil Lutz, who continues to be money
    (17 votes)
  • 34%
    I need many burgers to forget this loss
    (143 votes)
419 votes total Vote Now