The Big Queasy- When it was all said and done just maybe it wasn't mean to be for the 49ers in New Orleans Sunday. The Saints Garrett Hartley kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired giving the Saints a come from behind 23-20 win over the 49ers at the Superdome. With the loss the 49ers have dropped two straight games for the second time this season and fall to a 6-4 mark. With Seattle easily beating Minnesota Sunday as well, the 49ers hopes of winning the NFC West for this season are all but gone. At this point as it is now clear the 49ers are at best a wild card team and will have a heck of a fight ahead of them just to claim one of the two wild card spots in the NFC. The 49ers for the most part didn't play either the best game or worst game however did enough to be in a position to win. Too many things just started to work against them in the fourth quarter. After the 49ers Phil Dawson kicked his second field goal of the game to give the 49ers a 20-14 lead with 13:32 remaining, the 49ers offense would only gain a net nine yards for the remainder of the game. In the last 3:15 of the game, two major penalties by the 49ers would extend Saints a drive, eliminate a fumble recovery by the 49ers defense, and even draw a personal foul on a Saints fair catch after a 49ers punt. When these things happen while a team is nursing a three point lead, chances are very good that team will lose the game.
First Half- The New Orleans Saints opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 98 yard drive after the 49ers had pinned the Saints on their own two yard line following a punt. Saints QB Drew Brees would lead New Orleans on a long drive consisting of 11 plays. The big play on the drive came on a 3rd down and five from the Saints own 30 where Brees found Robert Meachem on a crossing route for a 45 yard pickup to the 49ers 25 yard line. Moments later Brees found Josh Hill on a slant pass good for a three yard touchdown. The 49ers would draw even in the second quarter after taking advantage of a huge turnover by the Saints. Lance Moore who was back to receive Andy Lee's punt dropped the ball in front of the 49ers Bubba Ventrone who immediately pounced on the football. The 49ers would waste little time getting to work from the Saints 11 yard line. After a pass to Jon Baldwin was ruled to be no catch despite having what appeared to be both feet inbounds, Kaepernick on second down found Anquan Boldin in the left corner of the end zone for the game tying touchdown. The 49ers would a later in the quarter take a 10-7 lead on a Phil Dawson 53 yard Field Goal. This lead would be short lived as on the ensuing kickoff the Saints Travaris Cadet returned Dawson's kickoff 82 yards to the 49ers 21 yard line. Three plays afterward New Orleans would reclaim the lead at 14-10 when Jed Collins ran the ball into the end zone from a yard away.
Second Half- The 49ers would get a huge break early in the third quarter when Ahmad Brooks would tip and intercept a Brees pass at the New Orleans 44 yard line and returned it 22 yards to set up the 49ers in a good spot. Three plays later Kapernick on a roll out play would find Vernon Davis in the end zone for a touchdown giving the 49ers a 17-14 advantage. The 49ers defense would dig in and hold the Saints offense at bay for most of the third quarter as it looked they were starting to take some control of the game. The 49ers then would end the quarter with a solid looking drive where they would convert on three successive third down plays. After Dawson's second field goal of the game capped this 13 play drive, things would slowly start to become unraveled for the 49ers though that took most of the final quarter to happen. After the ensuing kickoff the Saints went on an impressive drive of nine plays where they quickly moved deep into 49ers territory. However with three plays from inside the 49ers six yard line the red and gold defense made a huge stand denying Pierre Thomas and Jimmy Graham the end zone. From here the Saints were forced to settle for a short field goal of 21 yards. The 49ers kept the lead at 20-17 with 7:50 remaining. On their following possession the 49ers missed an opportunity on what could have been a huge play when Frank Gore dropped a Kapernick screen pass which had it been caught would have been a big gainer for the red and gold. The 49ers would have to punt the ball back to the Saints with just over six minutes remaining. With 3:15 remaining the play that likely changed the very outcome of the game happened when Brooks appeared to have sacked Brees forcing a fumble that was recovered by Patrick Willis at the 49ers 45-yard line. Brooks was called for an illegal hit to the quarterback as his arm was level with Brees' shoulders. The penalty negated the 49ers fumble recovery. The Saints were awarded the ball at the 49ers 30 yard line. In the next three plays the 49ers defense held their ground forcing the Saints to settle for a Hartley 42-yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20. In the 49ers subsequent possession Kaepernick in three plays was sacked for a nine yard loss, forced throw a pass away as the 49ers offensive line could not longer hold back the Saints defense. On third down Kaepernick was able to run for 16 yards but was three yards short of the first down. Andy Lee's subsequent punt would be fair caught by Darren Sproles at the Saints 25. However 49ers special teams player Kaseem Osgood made one of the bone headed plays of the season when he tacked Sproles anyways drawing a unnecessary roughness penalty giving the Saints the ball on their own 40. From there New Orleans drove 48 yards on six plays before Hartley's game winning field goal would seal the 49ers' fate as time expired.
A Huge Blow for the 49ers- The 49ers now are in a spot where their season will be hanging in the balance. With the NFC West title somewhat out of reach the 49ers will now need to focus on a wild card spot. The 49ers are also going to need to become road warriors as it's very likely any January football should it happen will be away from Candlestick. The 49ers in the last two games have gone up against teams that are playoff caliber and in both cases just failed to match the intensity of their opponent when it mattered the most. For the 49ers to get to the wild card with six games remaining they will likely need to win at least five. Also consider that they are now tied with Arizona for 2nd place in the NFC West. The 49ers hold the tie breaker over the Cardinals. However losses going forward will only further damage any post season hopes the 49ers have. There is a possibility the 49ers-Cardinals game in Week 17 at Arizona could even be for the final playoff spot. There are six games still to go and it is early however these possibilities right now exist for the 49ers. What the 49ers must do now is regroup and get ready for the Washington Redskins next Monday Night in DC.
Bad Officiating- I do my best not to comment on a game's officiating however in this case a few things need to be said. As far as the officiating in this game went it was for the most part bad at best. Blatant pass interference calls by the Saints on Jon Bladwin and Vernon Davis were missed. The penalty to Ahmad Brooks was highly questionable because the hit was fairly clean. There was nothing Brooks could to change how he would have hit Brees. In addition Brees was not injured and would not have been injured. The officiating crew ruled Brooks was going for Brees' head which wasn't the case at all. Brooks is not that type of a player and never has been. Officials often times have to use their best judgment and that can be difficult. What hurts is that there is a rush to judgment that in this case decided the outcome of a game. As far as the officiating crew that called this game Sunday, I hope the 49ers don't see that crew the rest of the season. This crew was a bad one at best.
Next Up- The 49ers will play the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football next Monday (Nov 25th). The Redskins are last in the NFC East and have a record of 3-7. However the Redskins have RGIII and can be a very difficult team to play especially in his own backyard at FedEx Field. Kickoff will be 5:20pm PT/8:20pm ET. The game will be carried nationally on ESPN.
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