Alex Smith Engineers Last-Second Drive As 49ers Down Saints, 36-32

In a frantic finish, Alex Smith found Vernon Davis for the touchdown with nine seconds as the Niners advanced to the NFC Championship. For more on this game, check out 49ers blog Niners Nation, Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles and SB Nation's Saints-49ers StoryStream. SI.com: Live Box Score

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VIDEO: Alex Smith Scores Go-Ahead Touchdown Run For 49ers Vs. Saints

Alex Smith has struggled throughout his first NFL playoff game with the San Francisco 49ers against the New Orleans Saints in the 2012 NFC Divisional Round. One thing has worked repeatedly, though, and that is lofting the ball in the general direction of Vernon Davis.

Smith did it again in the fourth quarter with the Niners trailing for the first time all day, finding Davis for a pass to get San Francisco into field goal range. But that play paled in comparison to the final play of the drive, a sweet play-call that got Smith the longest run of his career and gave a franchise that once had Steve Young under center the longest rushing touchdown by a quarterback in its history.

That gave San Francisco a lead that only a touchdown by the Saints can take away, though a failed two-point conversion attempt means the Niners' lead is just 29-24, and all the Saints will need is a touchdown to pull ahead.

For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area, and for the Saints check out Canal Street Chronicles. Here's a look at the complete 2012 NFL playoffs schedule.

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Saints Vs. 49ers, NFL Playoffs: Halftime Score, Niners Lead Sloppy Game 17-14

The San Fransisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints appear to have conspired to play a game that is spectacularly weird. Drew Brees has made a number of pretty, Brees-esque passes, but it's been a very sloppy game for the most part. Brees' two interceptions are just two of New Orleans' four turnovers. The Niners jumped out to an early 17-0 lead on the back of those mistakes, but the Saints got back into the game with two unanswered touchdowns to make the halftime score a much more respectable 17-14.

SI.com: Saints-49ers live boxscore

Donte Whitner has had an absolute monster of a game thus far for the Niners, and he's arguably the player who has had the most significant impact on the game thus far. On the Saints' first drive of the game, he delivered a monster hit to Pierre Thomas that was seen as clean by the officials, forcing a fumble in the red zone. Thomas suffered an apparent concussion on the play and will not return to the game.

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San Fransisco didn't score on that drive, but would win a field position battle with a couple of first downs, a good punt and a three-and-out to set up a 49-yard touchdown by Vernon Davis to open the scoring. On the next Saints drive, Brees threw an interception to Dashon Goldson, setting up a Michael Crabtree touchdown.

The Saints would turn over the ball for the third time immediately afterwards, with Courtney Roby fumbling the ensuing kickoff. The New Orleans' defense held San Fransisco to a field goal, which made the score 17-0.

Brees was perfect on the Saints' next two drives, finishing them off with spectacular touchdown passes to Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston. The Saints were driving for a third score near the end of the half before Brees threw his second pick of the game, this time to Tarell Brown. Things proceeded to get exceptionally sloppy after that, with Alex Smith fumbling on the next drive and the Saints failing to make anything out of that possession. Hopefully the second half is a little less sloppy.

Highlights

Vernon Davis TD

Dashon Goldson INT

Jimmy Graham TD

Marques Colston TD

Tarell Brown INT

For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area, and for the Saints check out Canal Street Chronicles. Here's a look at the complete 2012 NFL playoffs schedule.

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