The San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints both have a lot on the line for their Week 14 bout at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which includes a bid for the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoff picture. With both teams boasting 10-2 records, the Niners were looking to improve from their No. 5 overall seeding, which was the result of last week's loss against the Baltimore Ravens, as well as the Saints and Seattle Seahawks both winning their Week 13 matchups.

Needless to say, the 49ers leading 28-27 after two quarters is somewhat reassuring, especially considering the early deficit head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad faced.

New Orleans' offense took the field first on a drive which saw quarterback Drew Brees hit tight end Jared Cook for a 38-yard touchdown by beating a broken tackle by fill-in safety Marcell Harris to make things 7-0 in favor of the Saints. Harris was playing the deep safety role, yet he bounced off Cook after first contact.

Yet the Niners were able to answer back, thanks to some key grabs by wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel to get in the red zone. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo then hit wide receiver Kendrick Bourne on 3rd-and-10 to tie things up:


The Saints got great field position on the next drive, however, thanks to an impressive 51-yard kick return by Deonte Harris. Brees then hit Cook again for a 26-yard touchdown which coincided with a penalty against cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon for a hit on Cook just after the reception. The Saints elected to go for a two-point conversion, but the 49ers sniffed out the end-around attempt for New Orleans' specialist Taysom Hill to keep it 13-7.

San Francisco then went 3-and-out, and Harris had himself another nice return to get back to the Niners' 29-yard line, and the Saints were seamlessly able to work their way down to the 3-yard line at the end of the first quarter.

Brees then hit tight end Josh Hill for an easy 3-yard score to kick off the second quarter to make it 20-7. Marcell Harris was beat again in coverage, showcasing just how much the Niners were missing their strong safety starter, Jaquiski Tartt, who was ruled out with a ribs injury.

So, how would the 49ers respond? Only with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Sanders to make it 20-14:


Yet the Saints were able to get right back into the red zone the following drive, taking advantage of multiple weaknesses and shortages within San Francisco's defense. Facing a 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line, Saints head coach Sean Payton elected to go for it with Brees leaping over the pile for a touchdown to put New Orleans up 27-14.

So, how would the 49ers respond this time? Only with a trick play, letting Sanders toss a 35-yard touchdown to running back Raheem Mostert to make it 27-21. Yes, you read that right: Sanders to Mostert:


The Niners managed to force a punt the following drive, marking the first time the Saints had to punt in the game. Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida were then able to get into New Orleans territory in an attempt to take the lead just before halftime. And like they had been doing earlier, the 49ers were able to use some more creativity to get into the red zone, particularly another trick play resulting in an 18-yard end-around by Mostert to get to the Saints 5-yard line.

And what looked like a similar play from the 10-yard line, after San Francisco was called for a false start, Mostert was given the ball right up the middle and he rushed it in to give the Niners a 28-27 lead to close out the first-half scoring.

San Francisco will start the second half on offense.
  • Peter Panacy
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.

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