Saints Vs. 49ers, NFL Playoffs: New Orleans Fumbles It Away In Red Zone

The New Orleans Saints opened the first game of the NFL Divisional Playoffs with a fantastic drive down the field, but it ended in the worst way possible. On third down, inside the 10-yard line, Donte Whitner made a massive hit on Pierre Thomas to force a fumble, which was recovered by San Fransisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

After a series of solid runs and short passes that put the Saints into 49ers territory, Whitner committed a defensive pass interference penalty that gave the Saints a free 22 yards. Jimmy Graham appeared to suffer an injury on the play, as he was slow to get up. The trainers were examining Graham's head and he has been taken back to the locker room.

SI.com: Saints-49ers live boxscore

Whitner would atone for his error with a massive hit on Thomas to force the fumble, apparently injuring Thomas in the process. Thomas definitely took heavy contact to his head and did not appear to be completely alert when he hit the turf after the hit. An opening drive that resulted in a turnover and two possible concussions is about the worst thing that could have possibly happened to the Saints.

Is Whitner's hit on Thomas an illegal helmet-to-helmet shot? You be the judge.

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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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