A 13-yard touchdown pass from San Francisco QB Alex Smith to TE Vernon Davis with nine seconds left gave San Francisco a 36-32 lead.
QB Drew Brees has completed 39-of-62 passes for 458 yards with four touchdown passes and two interceptions. His favorite target has been Sproles who has set an NFL record in the postseason with 14 receptions for 116 yards with one touchdown, as well as a standout effort from WR Marques Colston, who has nine catches for 136-yards with a second quarter 25-yard scoring grab to put the Saints within three. Following the touchdown by Graham, he has five receptions for 103 yards. The New Orleans defense has sacked 49ers QB Alex Smith four times, 1.5 apiece coming from S Roman Harper and LB Martez Wilson. Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Harper are tied for the team lead with six tackles.
Starting at their 20, RB Darren Sproles took a screen pass from QB Drew Brees for a five-yard gain, followed by a Brees pass to TE Michael Higgins for a gain of ten yards, before he was forced out at the 35-yard line by San Francisco S Donte Whittner. RB Chris Ivory in the first run play, took a handoff for a three-yard gain. A pass to Sproles in the middle was then completed for a gain of 12 yards before he was tackled at the San Francisco 41 by CB Chris Culliver. Brees then threw a short pass to WR Robert Meachem, who was forced out of bounds by 49ers S Dashon Goldson at the 44. Ivory then took a handoff, ran right, but was stopped cold by San Francisco LB Patrick Willis for no gain on the play. On third-and-five, Brees threw to Graham down the field, but Whitner was called for a pass interference penalty that advanced the ball to the 21, resulting in a 23-yard penalty. Graham was shaken up on the play and departed. New Orleans subsequently moved into the red zone, as RB Pierre Thomas ran up the middle for six yards before being stopped by Willis. A second down throw near the middle of the field intended for WR Devery Henderson was nearly picked off by 49ers CB Carlos Rogers. On third-and-four, a throw to Colston was complete for a gain of just enough. Sproles then took a handoff up the middle, but he was tripped up for no gain by Goldson. Sproles just took a pass out of the backfield and brought it for a four-yard gain before being tackled by Whitner. A pass to Thomas followed who was stopped by Whitner and lost the ball in the process, as it was recovered by Willis at the two.
On San Francisco’s first play from scrimmage, QB Alex Smith completed a throw to WR Michael Crabtree for a gain of nine yards before he was tackled by S Malcolm Jenkins. 49ers RB Frank Gore then moved the chains for a gain of five yards to the 16 before he was tackled by DE Cameron Jordan. Gore then galloped behind a nice block from 49ers T Joe Staley for a gain of 15, before he was tackled by Jenkins at the 31. A throw intended for 49ers WR Kyle Williams was broken up by CB Tracy Porter. A timed slant was then completed to 49ers WR Ted Ginn Jr. for an 11-yard gain before he was tackled by Porter. Smith and his wideout tried to connect a second time, as it appeared to be a missed route. A crossing route was then completed to 49ers TE Vernon Davis, But Jenkins tripped him up after the initial catch, limiting the gain to five yards. On a key third down defensive play, S Roman Harper sacked Smith and forced him to fumble before it was picked up by Gore at the San Francisco 33 for a total loss of 16 yards. San Francisco P Andy Lee’s punt took a favorable role for a total of 47 yards, where it was downed at the New Orleans 18-yard line.
On first down, a throw to Sproles was broken up. Ivory took the carry on second down and gained a hard two yards. On third-and-eight, Brees was dropped by San Francisco LB Aldon Smith for a loss of 11 yards to send the punt unit out. Ginn fielded a punt for 60 yards that was returned to the San Francisco 46, before Ginn was tackled by LB Jonathan Casillas.
With the 49ers getting the ball back, Smith handed off to San Francisco. A completion from Smith to Davis then went for 49 yards into the end zone to give San Francisco a 7-0 lead.
WR Courtney Roby returned the kickoff out of the end zone 17 yards to the New Orleans 14, before he was brought down by San Francisco S C.J. Spillman. Brees completed a throw to Graham for a gain of four yards before he was tackled by 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman. A subsequent seven yard throw to Sproles moved the chains. On the next play, Goldson picked Brees off midfield and he was finally stopped by G Jahri Evans at the New Orleans four-yard line, resulting in a 41-yard return.
On San Francisco’s first offensive play on the drive, Smith threw out of bounds. On second down, he tossed it out of the end zone again, rather than throw to a covered Crabtree. A third down crossing route to Crabtree reached the end zone though to put the 49ers up by 14.
On the subsequent kickoff to Roby, the wide receiver, filling in on returns for Sproles fumbled the ball at the 13-yard line, where it was picked up by 49ers S Madieu Williams.
Smith immediately handed off to Gore, who ran left and gained only two yards before being tackled by Ellis in the final play of the first quarter. A pass was then completed to San Francisco TE Justin Peele for a gain of four. On third-and-four, Smith threw a pass where he saw a covered Ginn in the end zone out of bounds to send the field goal unit out, where San Francisco K David Akers hit a 25-yard field goal.
Akers’ kickoff went into the end zone to give the Saints starting position at the 20. A screen pass was completed from Brees to Meachem, who went out of bounds at the 28. Brees then tried a play action fate, but took a safe throw to Collins who gained eight yards and moved the chains. On first down at the 36, Brees faked play action again and completed a throw to WR Marques Colston who was tackled by Goldson at the San Francisco 44-yard line, resulting in a 20-yard gain. On a short pass to Sproles, he was tackled by Whitner at the 41-yard line. After it was initially ruled that Whitner popped the ball out of Sproles’ hands and he lost a fumble. However, the call was reversed, with New Orleans having the ball at the 39-yard line. Brees then threw up the middle to Colston, who was brought down by Bowman at the 28. Brees then ran out of bounds for a five-yard gain to the 23. A completion to Graham to the 16 then moved the chains to the 16. With a fresh set of downs inside the red zone, Ivory carried forward for a two-yard gain, before he was tackled by Willis. A subsequent 14-yard throw to Graham in the end zone, put the Saints on the board.
Morstead’s kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback. A completion to Gore was snuffed out for a loss of one yard by LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Smith subsequently pitched to the running back and Harper tackled him for no gain. On third down, Smith threw a pass to Gore, but he was tackled two yards short of the first down marker by Jenkins and LB Scott Shanle to send the punt unit out. 49ers C Jonathan Goodwin was shaken up and limped off the field on the play Lee punted to Sproles for 49 yards and it was returned 11 yards to the New Orleans 34.
On the first play of the drive, San Francisco DE Justin Smith jumped offsides, advancing New Orleans to the 39. He then completed a crossing route to Colston, who was tackled by Goodson at the San Francisco 48. A hurried Brees was then forced to send his next throw out of bounds. Sproles took a carry to the 49ers 46, where was he stopped after a gain of two by Bowman. However, Brees worked himself out of an unenviable down and distance situation and completed a throw to WR Adrian Arrington for a 14-yard gain. Brees quickly completed a throw to Henderson, where he was forced out of bounds by Rogers at the 25. A pass to Sproles was then dropped by the running back. On third-and-three, a long pass was completed to Colston right in the corner of the end zone, to put New Orleans down by only three.
On the first two plays starting at the 20, Hunter and then Gore ripped off runs of 11- and nine-yards respectively, followed by a 20-yard connection from Smith to Davis, where he went out of bounds at the New Orleans 40. A throw to Crabtree, was then bobbled and dropped by the 2009 first round draft pick, followed by another missed connection between the two. On third-and-ten from the 40, a jailbreak blitz, resulted in a nine-yard sack by Harper and LB Martez Wilson.
Following a touchback by Lee, an incomplete pass and a throw to Sproles for a two-yard gain, Brees took a shot down the field and was picked off by 49ers CB Tarell Brown and subsequently dropped by Henderson at the 29. Smith first completed a throw to Davis for an eight-yard gain where he was tackled by Harper. A throw to Williams, where he was forced out of bounds at the 43, moved the chains. A first down throw intended for Crabtree was tipped by Harper. Gore then carried forward for a gain of one-yard before he was stopped by Harper. On third-and-nine, Smith completed a pass to Williams, but he was tackled by CB Patrick Robinson, three yards short of the first down. On the punt, Sproles called a fair catch at the 14-yard line.
Following an incomplete pass, four yards were lost when Smith trapped Sproles on a reception. Facing third and 14 at their 11, Brees threw another screen to Sproles for a gain of seven, sending the punt unit out. Following an incomplete pass by Smith, on a second down play, Wilson hit Smith, forced him to fumble and it was recovered by Vilma with 17 seconds left. Brees and Henderson immediately went to the air on a long passing attempt, but the wideout was hit downfield and the ball sailed past him. On a crazy second down play, an incomplete pass was ruled. On the final play of the first half from the 44, San Francisco called a timeout. Brees threw the final pass of the half out of bounds.
Morstead’s kickoff to open play in the second half was for a touchback. On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Smith completed a pass to Crabtree for a seven-yard gain. Gore then carried for two yards and then four to move the chains. With a fresh set of downs at the 33, a pass intended for Davis was broken up by Jenkins. A run by Hunter to near the Saints sideline was snuffed out by Dunbar after gaining only one yard. On third-and-nine, another blitz by Jenkins resulted in New Orleans’ fourth sack of the day for a loss of 13 yards. A 57-yard punt by Lee was fielded by Sproles, who was hit by 49ers LB Blake Costanzo and the ball was recovered by 49ers S Colin Jones at the 26 yard line. It was Sproles’ first fumble of the 2011 season.
Gore took the first handoff and was brought down by Jordan after gaining three yards. On second down, Smith was under pressure from Jordan and was forced to chuck the ball out of bounds. On third-and-seven, a crossing throw to Crabtree was broken up by CB Jabari Greer, sending the field goal unit out. Akers hit a 41-yard field goal to extend San Francisco’s lead to 20-14.
New Orleans would start at their 20. On their first possession of the second half, a pass was completed to Sproles, which was converted for a gain of six yards, before he was tackled by Whitner. Brees then looked at Colston as a third option, found him open on a jump ball and he rambled to the San Francisco 43-yard line for a gain of 31. Ivory then took a handoff for a gain of two yards, before he was tackled by Bowman and Willis. On second-and-eight, Brees tried to complete a throw to Sproles under pressure, but the pass was incomplete. On third-and-eight, following a timeout, Brees was sacked by Justin Smith for a loss of nine yards to midfield. On a 38-yard punt by Morstead, Ginn returned the ball seven yards, where he was tackled by Roby at the 19-yard line.
On San Francisco’s first play of their drive, Ginn ran a sweep play and gained three yards before he was tackled by Vilma. A halfback option play was then ran, where Gore threw the ball back to Smith, with the ruling on the field as a backward pass for a loss of six yards with Jordan stopping the San Francisco signal-caller. With New Orleans blitzing, a pass was completed to Gore to the 24, but he was stopped by Dunbar, five yards short of the first down marker.
A punt by Lee was downed at the New Orleans 14-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Brees tried to take advantage of time by his offensive line, but he and Arrington failed to connect on a potential pass play. He went back to Henderson though on a slant and it resulted in a gain of 19 yards to the 33. With a fresh set of downs, Ivory then carried for a gain of seven yards up the middle before he was brought down by Willis. A pass play to Graham near the middle of the field resulted in a gain of 12 yards and moved the Saints into San Francisco territory. Brees then faked a handoff, but Rogers defended a long ball over the top intended for Arrington. A second down throw intended for Graham was then dropped by the tight end. Facing third-and-ten from the 48-yard line, following a timeout, a throw intended for Arrington was dropped by the wideout, sending the punt unit back out. Ginn called a fair catch for a 33-yard Morstead punt at the San Francisco 15-yard line.
FB Bruce Miller caught a ball on a route for a 16-yards. Hunter then took a carry towards the right side of the New Orleans defense line, but DTs Tom Johnson and Shaun Rogers stopped him for no gain. On second-and-ten, an offensive pass interference penalty assessed to Ginn resulted in loss of down. Ginn then went down before the next play started. A pass interference on Williams on the next play, resulted in a penalty declined and incomplete pass to send the San Francisco punt unit out again. Lee’s punt was downed out of bounds by Costanzo at the New Orleans 34-yard line, resulting in a total of 35 yards on the kick.
Brees on the first play of the drive, found Sproles for a gain of 12 yards, before he was tackled by 49ers LB Parys Haralson. Ivory then carried to midfield before he was tripped up by Goldson after gaining five-yards. A completion to Henderson for a gain of 11 yards moved the chains for the second time in the drive on the final play of the third quarter. On the first play of the final period, a throw to Colston gained nine yards before he was tackled by San Francisco LB Ahmad Brooks. Ivory then took a run up the middle to move the chains to the 27-yard line on a gain of three yards. On first down, Brees and Graham failed to connect. Following a carry for a two-yard loss by Ivory where he was stopped by Brooks, a pass to Colston in the end zone sailed past his fingertips, but New Orleans got on the scoreboard for the first time in the second half on a 48-yard field goal by K John Kasay.
With San Francisco starting at their 28, Crabtree caught a pass from Smith for a five-yard gain before being tackled by Crabtree and Vilma. Gore then ran right, but Dunbar stopped him after gaining only one yard. Smith tried a crossing route under pressure intended for Williams and it was almost picked off by Robinson, sending Lee and the punt unit back out. Sproles fielded the kick inside the ten and ran it back to the New Orleans 18-yard line with a 13-yard runback.
On the first play, Brees dropped back and under pressure a shuttle pass intended for Collins went on the ground. He was then dropped by Brooks for a loss of seven yards, followed by an incomplete pass to send the punt unit out. Morstead perfectly boomed a 53-yard punt out of bounds at the San Francisco 36.
Gore took the opening carry of the drive for a gain of 32 yards before being tackled by Porter to advance the 49ers to the New Orleans 22. Hunter then spelled Gore and carried for four yards before being stopped by DE Will Smith. A run by Anthony Dixon then was stopped for no gain by Smith, followed by a throw to Gore for no gain, which sent Akers out again, where he kicked his third field goal of the day.
Sproles would take the kickoff out of the end zone to the New Orleans 21-yard line, where Brees and the offense would have starting position for a critical fourth quarter drive. Brees first completed a short throw to Sproles, for a gain of only one, where he was tackled by Bowman. On second-and-nine, a connection was missed between Brees and Henderson. Brees rolled out on a critical play and completed a throw to Henderson for a gain of 13 yards, to set up first down at the 35. Brees and Colston then connected for a gain of 11 to the 46. A pass to Meachem was then completed to midfield for a four-yard gain where he was tackled by Meachem. A throw was completed to Sproles, who went out of bounds at the San Francisco 45, setting up third-and-one. The 5-6 all-purpose back then converted a crucial run up the middle. On first down, a throw near the Saints sideline went over Meachem’s head. Brees though then connected with Sproles for a touchdown, where the running back beat several tackles to run into the end zone and give New Orleans a 24-23 lead.
With San Francisco starting at their 20, Smith completed a pass to Hunter for a gain of 13 yards. A first down pass was broken up. It was followed though by a 37-yard completion to Davis and then a five-yard run by Gore. Hunter then carried to the 21-yard line where he was tripped up by Jordan. A 12-man in the huddle penalty would then send San Francisco back five yards. Faced with third-and-eight. Smith though took a keeper for the touchdown, to put San Francisco up 29-24. With the 49ers going for two, the run play was snuffed out.
With starting position at the ten-yard line, Sproles set the NFL single-game postseason record for receptions with his 14th, which went for a ten-yard gain and the NFL record. A throw intended for Colston after the two-minute warning was then broken up by Brown. Brees would find his favorite wideout again, who would go out of bounds at the 34. A long throw then went to Graham in the end zone for a 66-yard gain, to give New Orleans the lead again, going for two.
Leading 32-29, a long pass was completed from Smith to Davis to put the 49ers in field goal range at the 20. A pass was then completed to Gore at the 13, followed by Smith spiking the ball. On third-and-three, a pass was completed to Davis in the end zone to give San Francisco the lead with nine seconds left.
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