The San Francisco 49ers got a miracle play to send their game against the New Orleans Saints to overtime, then used a big fumble to pull off the win. Ahmad Brooks got a sack-fumble on Drew Brees late in the overtime period and Phil Dawson connected on a 35-yard field goal to hand the Niners a 27-24 win.
Down three in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-10 on their own 22-yard line, the 49ers looked dead in the water. The Saints had just marched downfield to take their first lead of the game, and the Niners were down to their last gasp at a comeback.
But with just over a minute remaining, Michael Crabtree got loose behind the defense and Colin Kaepernick, after rolling out and avoiding pressure, roped the ball deep downfield and found him for 51 yards. Four plays later, Dawson nailed a 45-yard field goal to tie the game at 24.
It looked like the Saints had answered with their own miracle. On the last play of regulation, Brees chucked a jump ball into the end zone. Jimmy Graham skied up and hauled in what looked like his third touchdown of the game, but the refs wiped it out for offensive pass interference. Replays clearly showed Graham shoving Perrish Cox to the ground.
The 49ers looked in control after Carlos Hyde scored on a 9-yard run to put the 49ers up 14-0 in the first quarter, but the Saints defense buckled down and the offense began finding its rhythm. New Orleans cut the lead to 21-10 by halftime and pulled to within four after Brees found Graham for an 11-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Trailing by four in the fourth quarter, New Orleans went to work on a 12-play, 80-yard drive to take the lead. On third-and-goal, Brees hooked up with Graham for a 2-yard touchdown to pull ahead.
1) The game turned on a fourth-down play.
The Saints had pieced together a long drive late in the fourth quarter but found themselves facing a fourth-and-3 on the 49ers' 34-yard line with under three minutes remaining. Down by four, Sean Payton wasn't sure whether he would get another chance with the ball if he kicked the field goal, so he sent the offense back out. The decision paid off: Brees found Marques Colston for 6 yards and a first down. Three plays later, Graham scored the go-ahead touchdown.
2) Anquan Boldin's big day could have been bigger.
Boldin was unstoppable, hauling in six receptions for 95 yards and scoring a key touchdown after the Saints had cut the deficit to seven in the third quarter. But the veteran wideout could have had even better numbers if not for four drops. The last was the most egregious, as he let the ball slip right through his hands for what could have been an 85-yard touchdown.
If Boldin holds onto that, the 49ers could be sitting on a 28-10 lead midway through the third quarter.
3) Mark Ingram is playing really well.
The Saints didn't find a ton of success on the ground early, but they stuck with it -- and it paid off. New Orleans leaned on Ingram down the stretch, wearing down a shorthanded 49ers defense. Ingram, who went over the 100-yard mark for the third consecutive game, found room on a handful of runs in the second half, including this beastly romp in the third quarter:
Brees is and always will be the key to this offense, but giving him a reliable ground attack to lean on when he struggles (he threw two picks in the first half) makes New Orleans a tough team to stop.