After suffering a devastating loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week on a last second field goal, the 49ers returned the favor against the New Orleans Saints today. A 48-46 shootout win has moved the 49ers up to the one seed in the NFC Playoff Picture. The Rams victory over the Seahawks maintained this playoff position. There was more to today’s game then just winning in a high-scoring affair. The Red and Gold proved their dominance today – and it was over one of the NFC’s best.
As the front office and team made the decision to stay on the east coast opposed to returning back to the Bay Area – a longer transition to the time-zone would hopefully help; and this certainly did, as according to reporters around the team, the ‘Niners had a fantastic week of practice. But when watching the first quarter and a half of the game, it didn’t feel that way.
The Saints scored on their first four possessions and looked so much faster than the San Francisco defense. The 49ers offense was there, and they were electric, but the defense, however, could not seem to stop Drew Brees. Bosa, along with Armstead did their jobs pressuring Brees, and the interior guys (Buckner and Jones) did okay as well; it was our secondary that looked beyond lost out there.
Second year SS Marcell Harris started in place of an injured Jaquiski Tartt, and Tartt’s absence on the field was felt. Brees found TE Jared Cook twice for two big touchdowns to start the day, but would leave after a concussion on the second one. Cook leaving the game definitely took out a big chunk of Payton’s game plan out against the 49ers defense. The secondary would prevent big plays the rest of the way, besides the Michael Thomas catch and run. Oh, and Tre’Quan Smiths ridiculous touchdown at the end of the game.
A dropped pick by Witherspoon and a terrible hold by Moseley, gave the Saints the lead with less than a minute left. At this point in the game I was shook. How the hell did we let that happen? Did we really just blow this game? The feeling of nostalgia. ‘Niner fans know how we lost most games last season; poor coverage when we needed to stop the opposing offense the most. That’s not me knocking the defensive backs, but that was an issue last season. They have stepped up tremendously this year and it just goes to show how well they have improved based on our record. Not my point though, so back to it.
The ball was given back to The Franchise – Jimmy Garoppolo. Could he go down and win it for the Niners? After all, he played well the whole game, no reason why he could not go down and win now. He did exactly that. The offense remained electric the whole game, and Shanahan’s play-calling ripped the great Saints defense apart. Boot legs, spacing the field with wideouts, and getting George Kittle involved won the 49ers this football game. The deep bomb to Sanders and the reverse from Sanders to Mostert exposed the Saints secondary, getting the offense psyched up. The passing attack conclusively would win the Niners this football game.
In a fourth and two situation with the offense backed up in their own territory, Garoppolo found Kittle for a massive play, placing the 49ers in field goal range to win the football game. George Kittle would dominant the Saints’ defensive player as he was in single coverage and was face masked running down field. Not shocking, considering the fact he is the best TE in football, and closed that case today after that big play. Robbie Gould would bang one through the up-rights, and the 49ers would take an impressive victory on the road.
When looking at who to give the game ball to after this one it most definitely goes to Jimmy G. In the loud Superdome, and against one of the best defenses in football, The Franchise remained poised and locked in. Finishing 26/35, with 349 passing yards, and four touchdowns, Garoppolo led the offense downfield drive after drive to capitalize on New Orleans. Despite criticism for a better part of the season, Jimmy remained calm and is a huge reason why the 49ers sit at 11-2.
So what exactly proved that the ‘Niners are a dominant force and arguably the NFC’s best? The fact that when one side of the football falls, the other is there to pick it up – and today the 49ers did exactly that.
(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)