2012 NFL Playoffs: San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith Stuns Saints on The Catch III

By Bryn Swartz

Nobody would have been surprised to see the Saints-49ers game could come down to a touchdown pass in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

After all, Saints QB Drew Brees has a reputation as one of the more clutch quarterbacks in the National Football League.

But who could have possibly imagined that 49ers quarterback Alex Smith would have out-Breesed Drew Brees?

In a game that should go down as one of the greatest in the history of the NFL postseason, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith hit tight end Vernon Davis for a game-winning 14-yard touchdown with just 9 seconds to play.

The play was reminiscent of The Catch II, when Steve Young connected on a 25-yard scoring strike to Terrell Owens with just 3 seconds remaining to beat the Green Bay Paclers 27-23 in the 1998 wild-card round.

For those of you who don’t remember the original Catch, that came in the 1981 NFC championship game when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark for a six-yard game-winning touchdown with just 58 seconds to play.

The Saints and 49ers combined for 28 points in the final four minutes and two seconds of the game. After Saints running back Darren Sproles took a screen pass 44 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints 24-23 lead with 4:02 left, Alex Smith led the Niners on a long touchdown drive. The drive culminated in a wacky 28-yard touchdown run with 2:11 left, a play in which Smith took the snap, ran to the left, and raced in untouched for a touchdown.

But the Saints responded, as Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 66-yard touchdown with 1:37 to play. Brees hit Sproles for the conversion and the Saints led by three.

Ener Alex Smith. Smth promptly drove the 49ers down the field in the final minute and a half, the drive ending in a touchdown to Vernon Davis with just seconds to play.

For the day, Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 103.2. Davis caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Brees completed 40 of 63 passes for 462 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. He finished the season with the following statistics: 541 for 763, 6404 yards, 53 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and a 110.5 passer rating.

Yet Brees’ incredible performance wasn’t enough to overcome the 49ers, who forced five turnovers on defense, and used a pair of late fourth quarter touchdowns to reach the NFC championship game for the first time since the 1997 season, when they lost 23-10 to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

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