Late 49ers TD caps off wild win against Saints

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They also had a towel-waving sellout crowd of 69,732 behind them at Candlestick Park on a beautiful sunny winter day in the Bay Area. It was 62 degrees at kickoff.

Who Dat? It’s the Saints headed home to the Big Easy empty-handed.

A year ago, New Orleans came out West and suffered a stunning loss to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in the NFC wild-card round.

The Saints had lost five fumbles all season, then gave three away Saturday against San Francisco’s opportunistic defense that pressured all day.

Harbaugh’s theme “don’t overcook it,” rang true as the 49ers relied on what got them here — perhaps the league’s best defense and special teams.

Brees drove the Saints close to the goal line on their opening drive but Pierre Thomas lost that fumble and was lost for the game to a head injury after being hit by Whitner. Two other turnovers came on special teams.

Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick booed so often his first six seasons, hit Davis on a 49-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and then Michael Crabtree on a 4-yard TD strike as the 49ers jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead. He finished 24 for 42 for 299 yards with a 103.2 passer rating, showing the world he might be an elite quarterback after all in his breakout season.

Smith and his offense were determined to make their mark on these playoffs after being overlooked all season, and showed a little flair of their own. Davis dunked the football over the goal post after his score to make the Niners’ most significant game on the NFL’s big stage since rallying to stun the New York Giants in January 2003.

Brees threw two first-half interceptions and had his NFL-record streak of 226 postseason passes without an interception snapped on Goldson’s pick in the opening quarter. Brees‘ streak dated to the NFC championship game against Chicago five years ago.

But he hit a well-guarded Graham for a leaping 14-yard touchdown catch at the 9:32 mark of the second quarter, then had a 25-yard TD completion to Marques Colston to send the Saints into halftime trailing only 17-14.

Any momentum New Orleans gained was hurt when Colin Jones forced return man Sproles to fumble after the 49ers punted on their first possession of the second half. That set up Akers’ second field goal of the day.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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