Not only did 49ers quarterback Alex Smith throw a game-winning touchdown pass to 49ers All-Pro tight end Vernon Davis with 9 seconds left, he answered a big question: could the 49ers score enough to keep up with the New Orleans Saints if the Saints scored more than 30 points. The answer was yes.
There will be some that say the Saints gave the game away. The Saints offered up 5 turnovers. However, they did so to a 49ers team that was a takeaway king during the regular season. It wasn't that the Saints gave the ball away. It was that the 49ers TOOK the ball away with their aggressive defense.
Earlier this week, many celebrated the 30th anniversary of "The Catch," the throw from Hall of Famer Joe Montana to WR Dwight Clark, which Clark caught the absolute ends of his fingertips. It seemed that only someone with the sticky fingertips of Spider-Man could have caught that pass (embedded below).
In 1999, Steve Young hit WR Terrell Owens for a winning touchdown with 3 seconds left in a 30-27 wild-card win over the Packers during the playoffs. That grab became known as "The Catch II."
Today, with the 49ers trailing 32-29, the 49ers had 14 seconds left, and took one shot at the end zone. They were set to go for a game-tying FG if necessary, but instead Smith drilled the ball to Davis for the win.
It was a game-winning drive, but it was really the second game-winning drive that Alex Smith had executed. Just about two minutes before, Alex Smith ran for a 28-yard touchdown with 2:11 left. With that much time, New Orleans came back for their own touchdown, and the lead, 32-29. Smith came back for the final drive.
It's not as though the 49ers halted the Saints with their defense. They gave up plenty of yards, and eventually plenty of points. Drew Brees was 40/63 (you read that right, 63 attempts) for 458 yards, 4 TDs, but also 2 INTs and a 93.2 QB rating. In terms of rushing, the Saints had only 37 yards. They were hampered in terms of rushing after Pierre Thomas was knocked out of the game early on after being hammered and fumbling the ball in the first quarter. That was only one of the Saints fumbles; Courtney Roby and Darren Sproles also had fumbles.
Silencing doubters, Alex Smith was 24/42 for 299 yards, 3 TDs and a 103.2 QB rating. Smith carried the ball one time, for a brilliant 28-yard TD. Frank Gore had 13 carries for 89 yards. TE Vernon Davis had 7 catches for 180 yards and 2 TDs. It was the most yards receiving by a tight end in a playoff game. WR Michael Crabtree had 4 catches for only 25 yards, but he had an important 1 TD.
With the victory, the 49ers are on their way to the NFC Championship game. They will either play in Green Bay, or New York will come to SF to play.
Watch The Catch III:
Watch The Catch.
Watch the Catch II
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons