The NFL schedule cares not for the 49ers’ sleep regimen. A week after traveling to the East Coast to face arguably the AFC’s best team in Baltimore, San Francisco was forced to hit the road again in Week 14 for an early Sunday afternoon game against arguably the NFC’s best team in New Orleans.
This time, the 49ers were successful. Their thrilling, 48-46 win over the Saints on Sunday thanks to a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould re-established San Francisco as arguably the best team in the conference. The standings, at least until the Seahawks play the Rams on Sunday night, reflect that.
The result of Sunday’s game in New Orleans directly impacts the NFL playoff picture. The 49ers temporarily are back to the No. 1 seed in the NFC postseason. San Francisco is one of six teams that can clinch a playoff spot in Week 14; it needs a Los Angeles loss or tie.
The Saints, of course, already clinched their playoff spot by virtue of winning the NFC South, their third consecutive division title. Now New Orleans is focused on locking in one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs so it can take advantage of the Superdome crowd in January. Its loss to San Francisco dropped it to the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs behind Green Bay.
Simply put: Sunday’s 49ers-Saints game was the best of the NFL season thus far, and a rematch in the postseason is entirely possible. Sporting News provided live scoring updates throughout the wild game in New Orleans. Here’s how it went down.
49ers vs. Saints: Final score
49ers vs. Saints: Updates, highlights
— 4:25 p.m. ET: FIELD GOAL, 49ers. San Francisco wins on a 30-yard Robbie Gould field goal. What. A. Game.
— 4:15 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, Saints. What a game. A missed tackle on Tre’Quuan Smith kills the 49ers, and the wide receiver trots into the end zone for an 18-yard TD catch to give New Orleans the lead with 53 seconds remaining. The two-point conversion fails.
— 4:05 p.m. ET: FIELD GOAL, 49ers. Robbie Gould’s first field-goal attempt of the game is good from 41 yards out, and it gives San Francisco a five-point lead with just more than two minutes left to play.
— 3:53 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, Saints. New Orleans won’t go away. Drew Brees finds Michael Thomas for a 21-yard touchdown to get it back to a two-point game with just more than six minutes to play. Thomas is up to 118 yards receiving.
— 3:42 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo buys some time with his scrambling and finds Kendrick Bourne for a 6-yard TD midway through the fourth quarter. With the PAT, it extends the 49ers’ lead to nine points.
— 3:28 p.m. ET: The third quarter ends with the 49ers leading 35-33.
— 3:19 p.m. ET: Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is ruled questionable to return with an ankle injury.
— 3:12 p.m. ET: FIELD GOAL, Saints. Will Lutz drills a 48-yard field goal to cut into the 49ers’ lead late in the third quarter. It’s now a two-point game.
— 3:06 p.m. ET: 49ers center Weston Richburg is ruled out with a right knee/ankle injury.
— 3:01 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo finds tight end George Kittle with a 5-yard TD pass off play-action. San Francisco goes back on top midway through the third quarter.
— 3 p.m. ET: Fumble. The 49ers recover an Alvin Kamara fumble and set up their offense at the Saints’ 20-yard line.
— 2:57 p.m. ET: 49ers center Weston Richburg is carted off the field with a right leg injury.
— 2:50 p.m. ET: FIELD GOAL, Saints. Wil Lutz nails a 55-yarder to put New Orleans back on top early in the third quarter.
— 2:48 p.m. ET: 49ers defensive end Dee Ford is ruled out with a hamstring injury.
— 2:47 p.m. ET: Interception, Saints. Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass goes off the hands of Emmanual Sanders and into those of New Orleans linebacker Craig Robertson. The first turnover of the game for either team comes on the first possession of the second half.
— 2:30 p.m. ET: A wild first half ends with the 49ers leading 28-27.
— 2:26 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, 49ers. A 10-yard TD run by Raheem Mostert, plus the PAT, puts San Francisco on top by one point just before halftime. He goes in virtually untouched right up the middle. It’s the 49ers’ first lead of the game.
— 2:18 p.m. ET: Saints tight end Jared Cook is ruled out for the rest of the game with a concussion.
— 2:05 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, 49ers. This is getting ridiculous. Another first-half TD, this time on a trick play by the 49ers. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders takes an end-around and throws a 35-yard pass to a wide-open Raheem Mostert for a score. It’s Sanders’ second touchdown pass of his career, and he becomes the first player in 49ers history to record a TD pass and a TD reception in the same game.
— 1:59 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, Saints. On a fourth-and-goal from the 49ers’ 1-yard line, Drew Brees leaps over the line and extends the ball beyond the goal line for a touchdown. The Saints have scored on all four of their possessions thus far, and Brees has all four touchdowns.
— 1:44 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, 49ers. San Francisco answers immediately with a wild play. Emmanual Sanders gets open downfield after beating Vonn Bell. Jimmy Garoppolo fires a deep pass, and Sanders catches the ball after safety Marcus Williams falls down. Sanders strolls into the end zone after breaking a Bell tackle attempt for a 75-yard score.
— 1:40 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, Saints. The first play of the second quarter is a 2-yard Drew Brees TD pass to Josh Hill off play-action. It’s yet another score against Marcell Harris’ coverage for a New Orleans tight end.
— 1:38 p.m. ET: 49ers defensive end Dee Ford is ruled questionable to return with a hamstring injury.
— 1:37 p.m. ET: The first quarter ends with the Saints leading 13-7 and threatening to score again.
— 1:32 p.m. ET: Saints tight end Jared Cook heads to the locker room. He is being evaluated for a concussion after taking a hit to the head on his second TD catch of the first quarter. He is later ruled questionable to return.
— 1:25 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, Saints. Make that two TD catches for Jared Cook. Drew Brees finds the tight end streaking behind the 49ers’ zone coverage for the middle of the field and hits him for a 26-yard score. Cook takes a massive hit to the head from Ahkello Witherspoon, who is flagged for a personal foul. The Saints go for two, but the conversion attempt fails.
— 1:17 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, 49ers. Two drives, two scores. San Francisco answers New Orleans’ touchdown with a score of its own when Jimmy Garoppolo finds Kendrick Bourne for a 6-yard TD pass to cap an impressive drive.
— 1:09 p.m. ET: TOUCHDOWN, Saints. Drew Brees finds tight end Jared Cook on a deep post for an easy, 38-yard touchdown pass to cap New Orleans’ first possession of the game. Cook beats safety Marcell Harris, who is starting in place of injured 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt.
— 1:06 p.m. ET: 49ers corner Richard Sherman leaves the game in pain holding his right arm. He goes back in after missing two snaps.
— 1 p.m. ET: Kickoff. New Orleans receives the opening kick
— 11:30 a.m. ET: Inactives for Sunday’s game are announced.
Pregame: The running backs are players to watch in this game. Since entering the NFL in 2017, the Saints’ Alvin Kamara ranks second among running backs with 1,979 receiving yards and ranks fourth across all players with 4,177 scrimmage yards. Kamara, who has 587 rushing yards and 444 receiving yards this season, needs 56 receiving yards Sunday against San Francisco to become the third player with at least 500 rushing and 500 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons in NFL history.
San Francisco features one of the most balanced rushing attacks in the NFL this season. Led by running backs Matt Breida (542 rushing yards), Raheem Mostert (539) and Tevin Coleman (454), the 49ers boast the NFC’s top rushing offense (148 yards per game) in 2019. With 46 rushing yards from Coleman, San Francisco would become the first team with three running backs to each have at least 500 rushing yards in a season since the 2004 Chiefs, when Priest Holmes (892 rushing yards), Larry Johnson (581) and Derrick Blaylock (539) accomplished the feat.
Additionally, if Coleman reaches 500 rushing yards for the season Sunday, San Francisco would become the first team to have three running backs with at least 500 rushing yards each in its first 13 games of a season since the 1978 Patriots.