SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers runs in for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the fourth quarter of their NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Okay, so it's not mixed martial arts, but if there's one thing MMA Maniacs love to discuss as much as their beloved sport, it's definitely the NFL playoffs.
Today (Sat., Jan. 14, 2012) features a pair of games from both the AFC and NFC Divisional Round. The fun kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET with the New Orleans Saints traveling to California to play the San Francisco 49ers for the right to advance to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday.
The Saints are rolling offensively but they're running into one of the best defenses in the entire league. The 49ers, with Aldon Smith and company, will have to get pressure on Drew Brees to disrupt the potent passing attack the boys from the Bayou are bringing to the Bay area. On the other side of the ball, Frank Gore likely needs to have a breakout game to play keep-away from the New Orleans offense.
It's going to be a lot of fun today.
So here it is, Maniacs; an open thread and discussion to keep your fellow gridiron guys and gals abreast of the Saints vs. 49ers score, as well as a sounding board for any and all football trash talk. Pics, videos, links -- it's all fair game today.
Just try and keep it rated PG-13. Pictures of smoking hot cheerleaders (who are we kidding, all hot women) are strongly encouraged.
Score updates as they happen after the jump.
New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers
49ers-7, Saints-0: The 49ers strike first with a beautiful throw over the middle from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis, who broke a tackle and ran the rest of the way untouched for a 49-yard touchdown. This after the Niners got a sack of Drew Brees from Aldon Smith to force a punt on the Saints previous possession.
49ers-14, Saints-0: Drew Brees made a rare mistake on the Saints next possession and got baited into throwing an interception. It was returned all the way back to the Saints five yard line, at which point the 49ers proceeded to score on a toss from Smith to Michael Crabtree to take a two touchdown lead.
To close the first quarter, the Saints fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Niners are threatening to score once again. Absolutely everything went right for San Francisco and everything went wrong for New Orleans.
END OF FIRST QUARTER
49ers-17, Saints-0: David Akers knocked in a field goal from 25 yards out to push the lead to three scores. The 49ers failed to pick up a first down following their fumble recovery on the kickoff but the fact that this is a three score game this early is incredible.
49ers-17, Saints-7: Drew Brees executed a solid 9-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham. The way Graham acted so tough in celebration after, you would think New Orleans took the lead. Sorry, genius, you're team is still down by double digits. Pull it back, big timer. Get within one score before trying to be a tough guy.
49ers-17, Saints-14: Once again, the Saints show why they were so highly regarded as an offensive juggernaut throughout the season with a 7-play, 66-yard drive. This time the capper was a beautiful pitch and catch from Brees to Marques Colston, who toe-tapped his way inside the pylon on a streak up the sidelines. The coverage was about as good as possible, the throw was simply perfect and Colston did an amazing job bringing in the pass and staying in bounds. We've got ourselves a ball game, folks.
The first half came to a close with both teams trading turnovers. Brees threw another interception, this time lofting up a pass to Devery Henderson and giving him the chance to make a play on it. Unfortunately, it was Tarell Brown of the 49ers who went up and brought down the football, giving the Niners a chance to increase their lead. That didn't happen because Alex Smith was sacked and fumbled a short time later. The Saints failed to capitalize, though, and the half closed. San Francisco will get the ball to open the second half.
END OF SECOND QUARTER
49ers-20, Saints-14: David Akers knocked in another field goal after Darren Sproles fumbled a punt return. The 49ers are failing miserably on third down, either not recognizing New Orleans proclivity for bringing heavy pressure or simply being too stubborn to stop it. Either way, it's maddening to see them fail to adjust in any meaningful way. It must be equally as maddening for Saints supporters who are watching the team turn the ball over at a spectacular rate. They're up to five turnovers so far.
The third quarter drew to a close with the Saints moving the ball down the field. Neither team looks particularly efficient at present time but the team with more playoff experience typically has the edge late in close games.
END OF THIRD QUARTER
49ers-20, Saints-17: The Saints were able to come within three after a solid drive ended with a couple of bad throws from Brees, who still doesn't look quite right. It's incredible how different this team looks on the road than they do at home. The 49ers have failed to provide any meaningful offense since the first quarter, though, so they better kick it into gear and put some points on the board if they want to win this game.
49ers-23, Saints-17: San Francisco finally came to life with a big 42-yard run from Frank Gore that set them up inside the red zone. Unfortunately, as happened all too often this season with this team, they stalled and couldn't get in the end zone for what would have given them a big 10 point advantage. Instead, it's back to a six point game.
Saints-24, 49ers-23: New Orleans got in the end zone on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Darren Sproles, who took a simple cut route and just blew past the defense. He now has 13 catches in this game. The 49ers failure to adequately address the best receiver on the Saints offense is inexcusable. Remember, the Saints have five turnovers in this game and were down 17-0 at one point. With four minutes to go, the 49ers now need to score some points. Amazing.
49ers-29, Saints-24: San Francisco answers back with a crazy sequence of plays. They kickstart but having Smith bust a 37-yard pass to Vernon Davis that opened it up down field. They then killed plenty of time to possibly set up for a field goal but ended up not needing it when Smith ran an insane quarterback draw around the outside for a 28-yard touchdown. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, which means a touchdown for the Saints in the final two minutes will win them the game. Here we go.
Saints-32, 49ers-29: Brees found Jimmy Graham down the middle and he made a huge play on the ball before breaking a tackle and rushing into the end zone for the go-ahead score. This was a colossal failure on defense from the 49ers, who played the pass poorly and then failed to tackle on the most important play of the game. Just horrible defense the whole way. Unlike the Niners, the Saints converted on the ensuing two-point attempt and it's a three point game with 1:37 to play. San Francisco has just one timeout to work with here.
49ers-36, Saints-32: Vernon freaking Davis went bonkers on this drive. He caught a 47-yard pass that put the 49ers in field goal range and just a few plays later caught a touchdown with just nine seconds remaining. He cried on his way to the sideline and was greeted with the loving open arms of his teammates and coach. What an amazing drive, game, play, everything. Unbelievable. What a ride.
FINAL SCORE -- 49ers-36, Saints-32: The 49ers are going to the NFC Championship Game after one of the greatest games in NFL history, be it preseason, regular season, postseason; what an unbelievable game full of ups and downs, lead changes, guys making incredible plays, it had everything. Absolutely stunning.