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49ers outlast Saints in the game of the year, 48-46.

So many gray hairs after today

San Francisco 49ers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Surprisingly, both teams scored on their opening possessions. The Saints drove the field after Drew Brees hit Jared Cook on a 38-yard touchdown pass after Marcell Harris whiffed on the tackle. That made it 7-0 before some fans got into their seats. It didn’t take long for the 49ers to get on the board, either.

San Francisco marched 75 yards on six plays to tie the game 7-7. The passing on the first drive made it seem like the Niners would be able to do whatever they wanted through the air. Unfortunately, the same could be said for the Saints. New Orleans scored another touchdown on another seam throw. This time for 26 yards to Cook. The failed two-point conversion made it 13-7, New Orleans.

A penalty and a sack stalled the next drive for San Francisco, and a big punt return gave the Saints the ball on the 29-yard line. Deonte Harris had the big return and a nice run to set up a short touchdown to Josh Hill. That made it 20-7, and the Niners desperately needed an answer. Boy, did they get one. Emmanuel Sanders scored on a 75-yard pass play where he made safety Vonn Bell fall, caught it over another safety, and outran two others for a score. It was a crazy play and a much-needed answer for San Francisco. That score made it 20-14.

The 49ers tackling was abysmal the first quarter, and that didn’t stop after the Saints took over on their next possession. A few missed tackles led to big plays, and in a blink of an eye, the Saints marched down the field once again. New Orleans was 4-4 on third down with a chance to score on third and goal, but they came up short. The next play, Drew Brees converted on fourth down to make it 27-14. The defense didn’t look like they had any clue how to stop Brees and company.

Not to be outdone, Shanahan pulled out a double-reverse pass that we saw the Bills score on Thanksgiving for a touchdown. With that, Emmanuel Sanders became the first 49ers in team history with a passing touchdown and receiving touchdown in a game, spanning the team’s time in the NFL, which began in 1950, per ESPN Stats and Info. That made it 27-21.

Nick Bosa made a play on the next Saints possession to help the defense get off the field. It was exactly what was needed, as the Niners couldn’t get off the field. Another score before the end of the half made it 28-27. That was big, as San Francisco got the ball to start the second half.

An interception from Jimmy Garoppolo that hit Emmanuel Sanders in the hands, though the throw wasn’t great, gave New Orleans a short field. The defense held the Saints to a much-needed field goal to make it 30-27. The Saints got the ball back after San Francisco decided to get Tevin Coleman involved. After a punt, D.J. Jones forced a fumble, and that was just what the doctor ordered. A George Kittle touchdown made it 35-30, good guys.

Because defense was optional all day, the Saints drove the ball into 49ers territory on the ensuing drive. Fred Warner and Ahkello Witherspoon both made plays to get the defense off the field. There was a clear offensive pass interference on Michael Thomas, but it wasn’t called. A field goal by New Orleans made it 35-33. The Saints had a chance to score again, but Bosa made a couple of plays, and almost had his second interception on the year. He was great. A fake punt that Saints fans were crying about was stopped. They thought there should be pass interference, but as explained, that’s not a penalty on a punt formation.

San Francisco took over around midfield. A defensive holding gave them a first down, and a couple of key throws to Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne got them inside the red zone. A helmet-to-helmet hit gave the Niners a first and goal. A touchdown to Bourne made it 42-33. That was the 27th catch on the season for Bourne. Twenty-four of those have gone for first downs or touchdowns. That’s the type of reliable threat this offense needs.

The Saints drove the ball on their next possession after a holding call on Richard Sherman took away a sack from Solomon Thomas. A long pass to Michael Thomas put New Orleans in scoring position, and he caught another one to make it 42-40. One of the biggest strengths all season has been the 49ers “four-minute offense.” They took over with just over six minutes to play and marched right down the field. The Saints called a nice run blitz that forced a sack, and that held the 49ers to a field goal to make it 45-40. Deebo ran out of bounds twice which helped the Saints not use a timeout and stay on the right side oft he two-minute warning.

So it was New Orleans ball and they needed to score a touchdown to win. The Saints biggest play came when Sherman ran off the field after he was hobbled. Nobody took his place and that put New Orleans in scoring position. Tackling continued to be an issue and the Saints scored to make it 46-45. They missed the two-point conversion so the 49ers had :53 seconds to get within Robbie Gould’s field goal range and win it.

It came down to 4th & 2, and who else was going to get the ball? George Kittle dragged defenders and refused to go down. Just an unreal player. That put the 49ers in position. Robbie Gould made one of the most important games of his career and the 49ers win the thing 48-46. Unreal.

What a game. The 49ers now have nothing left to prove. They are 2-1 in The Gauntlet.

Up next

The 49ers now have the Atlanta Falcons coming to town. That game is no gimmie. The Falcons gave this very same Saints team a run for their money a few weeks ago. Kyle Shanahan may want some gamesmanship against his former team as well. The Falcons are familiar with the 49ers offense, so that is something to track this week.