Oh yeah, and Jimmy Garoppolo matched Brees’s 349 yards exactly, except on five fewer attempts. The Niners won, 48-46. It wasn’t as high-scoring as last year’s 54-51 game between the Rams and Chiefs, but that game featured multiple defensive touchdowns. In this game, both teams threw for five touchdowns and ran for a sixth. The over/under set by most sportsbooks for the game was 45 points. Both teams hit that total by themselves, the first time both teams individually passed the projected combined total since 2008. The game was critical in the big picture for the NFL season: The Saints and 49ers both entered Sunday 10-2, with the winner in line for a huge leg up toward getting a first-round bye in the playoffs and possibly home-field advantage through the Super Bowl. If the Niners had lost, FiveThirtyEight projected them as having a 6 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. Because they won, that jumped to 16 percent, vaulting them over the Saints. (Getting a first-round bye is important.)
Watching Saints-49ers, it seems impossible to call it dumb to be blown away by high-scoring football games. We saw two of the NFL’s best teams take on defenses that should have shut them down, and figure out ways to excel anyway.
Loser: George Kittle’s Opossum Babies
The deciding play of the game of the year wasn’t a touchdown, but a 39-yard pass to George Kittle. Except at the beginning, it didn’t look like a 39-yard pass—the Niners were just trying to pick up a fourth-and-2, and Jimmy Garoppolo threw to Kittle just past the sticks. The tight end immediately ditched the only defender who attempted sticking with him on the route and headed upfield, where he started accumulating Saints defenders like a snowball rolling downhill picks up snow. But he kept churning his legs, no matter how many Saints climbed on top of him, like a mother opossum transporting her entire litter on her back: