|Date of game: 11/9/2014
Recap: New Orleans vs. San Francisco
New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Phil Dawson's 35-yard field goal with 5:14 remaining in overtime completed a stirring San Francisco comeback that lifted the 49ers to a crucial 27-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Dawson's game-winning kick came one play after Ahmad Brooks sacked Drew Brees deep in New Orleans territory to cause a fumble that Chris Borland recovered at the Saints' 17-yard line.
Dawson also knocked through a clutch 45-yard field goal with 44 seconds left in regulation to force extra time, a boot set up by Colin Kaepernick's 51-yard pass to Michael Crabtree on 4th-and-10 with just over a minute to play.
San Francisco (5-4) came up with a pair of interceptions of Brees earlier that helped the Niners halt a two-game skid and avoid falling further behind in the NFC playoff race.
"We were out there playing in a do-or-die situation, and we had guys out there who came up big at the right time," 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin remarked. "We said it all week, that we felt our backs were against the wall. This was a must-win game for us and that's what you saw."
Brees shook off the early picks to throw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to Jimmy Graham. The second of those catches had given New Orleans a brief 24-21 lead with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter.
Graham very nearly had a third touchdown after hauling in Brees' Hail Mary heave as time expired in regulation, but the All-Pro tight end was called for offensive pass interference. He finished with 10 receptions totaling 76 yards.
Kaepernick threw for 210 yards and a touchdown to Boldin, who amassed 95 yards on six catches. Frank Gore added 81 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in the win.
Mark Ingram rushed for 120 yards on 27 attempts for New Orleans (4-5). Brandin Cooks had 90 yards and a touchdown in the loss, which ended the Saints' 11-game home win streak.
"I think we did do a lot of good things out there, but unfortunately -- and for me personally, too -- there were too many bad things that you couldn't overcome with the good things," said Brees.
Graham's leaping 2-yard grab in the end zone that gave the Saints their first and only lead of the day began a wild final two minutes, with three straight Kaepernick incompletions on the ensuing drive only increasing the drama.
Kaepernick, who hit on just 14-of-32 throws for the game, redeemed himself on the next snap by extending the 4th-and-10 play with his feet and firing a laser down the field that a wide-open Crabtree snared with a diving attempt at the New Orleans 27 with 1:05 left.
"That play, it turned into a scramble," said Kaepernick. "Crab made a great play getting across the field and the offensive line did a great job giving me a lot of time. He was like the third or fourth guy I looked at while I was scrambling. And I was real happy when I saw how wide open he was."
After failing to move the ball further, Dawson split the uprights to even the score at 24-24 and give the Saints one last gasp at the win, which they nearly pulled off when Graham pulled down Brees' desperation throw in the end zone while pushing off on Niners' defensive back Perrish Cox.
"It was definitely not a push-off," said Graham of the play. "I was running down the field and I'm telling myself not to push off, just go up and get it. It's interesting that guys grab me all over the field. I put two fingers on someone and I get it called against me. That's why I left basketball."
Both teams failed to move the ball past midfield on their opening drives of overtime, and the next one quickly ended when Brooks hammered Brees from behind and Borland alertly pounced on the loose ball inside the opposing 20.
Jim Harbaugh, whose San Francisco teams have never dropped three in a row during his four seasons as head coach, took no chances and immediately sent Dawson out to hit the game-winner.
The 49ers moved the ball effectively throughout the first two quarters to build a 21-10 lead at intermission, but punted on four straight drives to begin the second half as the Saints gradually climbed back.
New Orleans started its rally by putting together a 10-play, 64-yard drive in which Ingram ripped off two strong runs and Brees spun off a blitzing defender before firing an 11-yard strike to Graham in the end zone on third down.
The Saints came up empty on their next series, but forced another Niners punt to get the ball back midway through the fourth quarter. Brees then engineered a 12-play, 80-yard march that consumed nearly 5 1/2 minutes to put New Orleans ahead for the first time of the game.
Marques Colston extended the pivotal sequence by making a short catch on 4th- and-3 and breaking a tackle for a 23-yard gain to the San Francisco 10. Graham, who came up with a 13-yard grab in traffic on 3rd-and-9 earlier in the drive, gave the Saints a 24-21 edge shortly afterward by winning a jump ball with Cox in the corner of the end zone.
The game's importance wasn't lost on San Francisco, which set the tone right away with a big play on defense. Antoine Bethea intercepted Brees' floater for Colston on the game's first drive and returned the pick 22 yards to the New Orleans 19, leading to the initial score when Gore's 4-yard run around the left side quickly staked the Niners to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes in.
San Francisco then forced a swift three-and-out and the offense put together an impressive 13-play, 79-yard trek that featured three third-down conversions, including a 19-yard scramble from Kaepernick deep into Saints' territory. Carlos Hyde finished the series off by finding a lane for a 9-yard run to put the 49ers up 14-0 with 4:17 remaining in the opening quarter.
Two big pass plays -- a 38-yard catch from Cooks and Colston's 12-yard grab on 3rd-and-7 -- on the ensuing possession set Shayne Graham up for a 40-yard field goal to get the Saints on the board, and New Orleans further closed the gap on its next offensive touch.
After two hard runs by Ingram brought the Saints to the San Francisco 31, Cooks got behind the coverage to haul in Brees' deep strike and trim the margin to 14-10 with 9:13 left in the first half.
The 49ers answered with an 8-play, 80-yard march in which Boldin came up with three receptions, one on third down and the second a 23-yard over-the-middle snare to the New Orleans 25. He concluded the drive with a beautiful over-the- shoulder 15-yard touchdown catch to restore San Francisco's 11-point advantage.
New Orleans had an opportunity to score late in the half when Tyrunn Walker stripped Kaepernick in 49ers' territory, but Brees threw into triple coverage looking for Jimmy Graham near the goal line and was picked off by Chris Culliver.Game Notes
The Saints hadn't lost at the Superdome since a 44-38 setback to Carolina in
the 2012 regular-season finale ... Ingram recorded his third consecutive 100-
yard rushing game, the first New Orleans player to do so since Deuce
McAllister had nine straight in 2003 ... Jimmy Graham now has 14 touchdown
catches over his last 13 home games ... San Francisco had lost in five of its
previous six visits to the Superdome, including a 23-20 defeat last season,
and had dropped seven of the last eight non-playoff meetings in the series.