SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14: Ricky Jean Francois #95 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after they beat the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
It's still tough for me to come down from the high of that insane finish. While there were some stretches of seriously ugly football, the final 4+ minutes of regulation will go down in history as one of the funnest, wildest stretches of football in NFL history. It is easy to get overly excited about things happening in the here and now, but this is a finish that will be talked about for some time. The 49ers need to build on this to make it even more epic, but for now, it was what it was.
There really are so many heroes from that game. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis are on the tip of our tongues, as is Justin Smith. While Justin Smith may not win Defensive Player of the Year, his performance on Saturday was the kind of performance you expect from the best defensive player in the NFL. The defense as a whole had an intriguing performance. They did give up that late touchdown and 32 points overall, but it was not a "bad" performance. I suppose getting a W makes it easier to assess it that way.
All aspects of this game featured plenty of good and bad. And given how it all played out, I suppose that is fitting. Normally when I go to put together a day after recap post, it is easy to focus in on a few big things. Today, not so much. I could write individual posts until the cows come home and not cover every big performance. I haven't even mentioned Donte Whitner yet. The 49ers strong safety laid the wood like nothing we've seen. Dashon Goldson is a big hitter and we saw some of his big hits yesterday, but Whitner was an absolute beast in the secondary. He knocked out PIerre Thomas and he dropped big hits every which way.
Thankfully we have a day of "other football" to sort of come down off this incredible high. I don't recall ever being so amped after a 49ers game. A divisional round victory isn't the Super Bowl, but for one day it is the biggest thing out there. During the regular season, I try not to get too high or too low following a game given that there are 15 others just like it. This was a little bit different as the adrenaline was most definitely flowing.
Congratulations to the 49ers on an epic victory. There is plenty to work on following that game and the team has to improve to beat a team like Green Bay. For now, though, congrats on a job well done.
With the win...
· The 49ers advance to the NFC Championship round for the 13th time in franchise history and the first time since the 1997 season.
· San Francisco's overall postseason record improved to 27-18 and 20-9 at home.
· Since 1980, the 49ers have posted an 18-4 record at home in the postseason and an 11-2 record at home in the Divisional Round.
· The 49ers won their third straight postseason home game. It also marked the eighth win in their last 10 postseason contests in San Francisco.
· Head coach Jim Harbaugh became just the 5th head coach in franchise history to win his first postseason game.
First Time Ever
· The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to score two lead-changing TDs in the final three minutes of the 4th qtr. in a postseason game.
The Comeback Kid
· Down 3 points with just 1:32 to play in the game, QB Alex Smith led the 49ers on a 7-play, 85-yd. drive that was capped off by a 14-yd. TD pass to TE Vernon Davis. On the drive, Smith completed 5 of 7 atts. for 85 yds. and a TD.
· Smith finished the day completing 24 of 42 atts. for 299 yds, 3 TDs and a QB rating of 103.2. He also registered a 28-yd. TD run late in the 4th qtr.
Davis Comes Up Big
· TE Vernon Davis recorded 7 recepts. for 180 yds. and 2 TDs on the day. His 180 rec. yds. are the most by a TE in NFL postseason history for a single-game.
· His 180 rec. yds. are the 2nd most in a single postseason game in franchise history (WR Jerry Rice - 215 rec. yds. vs. Cin. - SB XIII).
· Davis' first TD came on a 49-yd. catch and run from QB Alex Smith.
· Davis was on the receiving end of the game-winning 14-yd. TD pass from Smith with just 0:09 seconds left in the game.
· The 49ers registered 5 takeaways (3 FRs, 2 INTs) in the game, tying the franchise record for most takeaways in a postseason game (four times: last vs. Dal. 1/15/95).
· The 49ers notched 3 takeaways (2 FRs, 1 INT) in the 1st qtr., tying the franchise record for most takeaways in one quarter in a postseason game (12/23/72 vs. Dal. - 3rd qtr. & 1/15/95 vs. Dal. - 1st qtr.).
· The 3 FRs tied the franchise record for the most in a single postseason game. San Francisco recorded 3 FRs vs. Dal. (12/23/72) and vs. Det. (12/22/57).
· The 49ers registered a +4 turnover differential, improving their postseason record when winning the turnover battle to 19-1.
· The 49ers defense recorded 3 takeaways on the day.
· With less than two minutes remaining before the half, CB Tarell Brown leaped over WR Devery Henderson for the INT off Brees.
· San Francisco's 2 INTs on the day moved them into 2nd place in NFL postseason history with 65 INTs (since 1960).
· The 49ers special teams unit tallied 2 takeaways (one on a kickoff coverage and one on punt coverage) in the game. Those 2 takeaways led to 2 FGs (25, 41) by K David Akers.
· K David Akers connected on 3 for 3 FGs and 3 PATs for 12 pts. Akers moved into 2nd place in NFL history for FGs made, trailing only K Adam Vinatieri (45).
· With 146 career postseason points, Akers ranks 3rd in NFL history, trailing only K Gary Anderson (153) and K Adam Vinatieri (187).
· Akers has scored at least one point in all 20 career postseason games, passing K/QB George Blanda for the second-longest streak in NFL postseason history.
Bringing the Heat
· The 49ers defense was able to register 3 sacks on Saints QB Drew Brees.
· LB Aldon Smith forced a New Orleans punt after sacking QB Drew Brees for an 11-yd. loss on 3rd down in the 1st qtr.
· All-Pro DT Justin Smith brought down Brees for a 9-yd. loss in the 3rd qtr.
· In the 4th qtr., LB Ahmad Brooks took down Brees for a 7-yd. loss.