It’s been a while since San Francisco has played in a “must-win” game that didn’t take place in the post-season, but at (4-4) the Niners faced such a scenario this weekend in New Orleans.
They eked out the victory, but it was quite a wild ride between the opening kick-off and Phil Dawson’s 35-yard game-winner in overtime. Dawson’s ball looked like it shot off the head of a garage sale 3-wood than off the foot of a professional football player, but it sliced through the uprights, and that’s all that matters.
Jumping out to a big lead in the Big Easy
The Niners employed a balanced attack in this one, with exactly 32 running plays and exactly 32 pass attempts – but in the early going it was a strong ground game that put the 49ers up big in the first quarter.
Frank Gore punched one in from 4 yards out and then Carlos Hyde scored from the 9-yard line to make it 14-0 before the Saints even recorded a first down.
But the Saints crawl back
Slowly but surely New Orleans got back into the game on the arm of Drew Brees. While he did toss two picks on the day, he recorded a 31-yard touchdown throw to Brandin Cooks and two more to Jimmy Graham (11yd. and 2yd.)
The 2-yard score put the Saints on top 24-21 to give them their first lead of the game.
But Colin Kaepernick was able to engineer a game-tying drive that put Phil Dawson in range for the 45-yard field goal that forced overtime. The key moment on the drive was an amazing 51-yard pass to Michael Crabtree on a 4th and 10.
Kaepernick and Crabtree essentially saved the Niners’ season on a single pass play.
The Hail Mary that wasn’t
On the final snap of regulation, Jimmy Graham caught what appeared to be a game-winning 50-yard bomb.
That was until the yellow flag came flying in – Offensive Pass Interference:
— NFL Now (@NFLNow) November 9, 2014
Both teams had multiple chances to score in the extra period, but a strip-sack of Drew Brees in New Orleans territory proved to be the play of the game. San Francisco’s rookie linebacker Chris Borland recovered the fumble to set up Dawson’s ugly but good game-winning kick.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) November 9, 2014