The San Francisco 49ers hosted the New Orleans Saints on Saturday at Candlestick Park in the first NFL playoff game for the Niners in nine years. The wait ended up being worth it, as the 49ers came away with the 36-32 win to advance to the NFC Championship Game in a thrilling contest that can only be described as an instant classic. The game features five turnovers by the Saints and a fourth quarter where the lead changed hands no less than four times before the 49ers sealed the deal in the final minute of play.
We have collected some of the video highlights from the game for you right here in one easy location.
The first key play of the game came midway through the first quarter, when the New Orleans Saints were deep in the San Francisco red zone. A handoff to Pierre Thomas from inside the 10-yard line was met by a helmet-to-helmet stop by Donte Whitner that appeared to knock Thomas cold and cause a fumble, which was recovered by the 49ers.
With just over 2:00 left in the first quarter, the 49ers opened scoring when Alex Smith connected with tight end Vernon Davis on a touchdown pass.
Just a matter of seconds later, the Saints had their second costly turnover of the first quarter as Drew Brees threw an interception that Dashon Goldson picked and ran back to inside the five-yard line.
The Goldson interception put San Francisco in prime position for Smith's second touchdown pass of the quarter, this time to Michael Crabtree.
Although the Niners had jumped out to a 17-0 lead by the beginning of the second quarter, Brees and the Saints climbed back into the thick of things and the quarterback appeared to be leading his team on a two-minute drill at the end of the half with his team only down 17-14. So it was a huge play when Tarell Brown snagged an interception on a long Brees bomb to help get the 49ers into the half with their lead intact.
The 49ers picked up yet another big turnover in the opening minutes of the second half, when Darren Sproles was unable to hang onto the football during a return.
Frank Gore broke off a big run in the fourth quarter that helped the 49ers get to within field goal range for David Akers, which at the time extended San Francisco's lead to 23-17.
The 49ers lost the lead on a Darren Sproles touchdown, but regained it with 2:11 left in regulation on this spectacular 28-yard run by Alex Smith:
The Saints retook the lead on a Brees touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham, but with just nine seconds left on the clock, Smith capped off a last-minute drive with a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis that very well may take its place in the annals of beloved 49ers memorable and historic catches. Here's the game-winner in all its glory:
It was a game that San Francisco football fans will be talking about for years to come, and for good reason.