Sunday's matchup offered more than what fans expected in a battle of two brilliant offensive minds in Kyle Shanahan and Sean Payton going head-to-head for NFC supremecy. The San Francisco 49ers battled back from a 13-point deficit in the first half en route to a 48-46 victory over the New Orleans Saints. San Francisco now improves to 11-2 on the season following the win. Here are 12 takeaways from the Week 14 shootout.
1. New Orleans opened the game with a 9-play 73-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Jared Cook to put the Saints on the board early. San Francisco quickly responded with a scoring drive of their own. Jimmy Garoppolo connected with Emmanuel Sanders on back-to-back plays for 19 and 31 yards, respectively, followed by a 25-yard pick up by Deebo Samuel. Three plays later, Garoppolo found Kendrick Bourne for a 6-yard touchdown, his fourth of the season.
It's good to remember that the 49ers managed to get all of their wideouts involved in some capacity on Sunday as San Francisco was down to just four receivers against New Orleans. Marquise Goodwin (foot, knee) and Dante Pettis (knee) were both ruled out against the Saints.
2. San Francisco's defense had no answer for Brees and New Orleans offense in the first half, allowing four straight touchdowns in the Saints first four possessions. New Orleans first punt of the game came late in the second quarter, as San Francisco managed to capitalize off of it (see No. 5).
3. On the first play of San Francisco's third drive, Garoppolo dialed up a bomb downfield to Sanders for a 75-yard touchdown. The wideout went untouched after the catch as he was chased into the end zone for the score. The touchdown marked a career long throw by Garoppolo and career long reception by Sanders.
4. The 49ers third score of the game also came by the way of a Sanders touchdown, except this time, the wideout was at quarterback. Samuel took the handoff and lateralled to Sanders, who completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Raheem Mostert.
Sanders finished the game catching seven receptions for 157 yards (22.4 yards per reception) and a score to go along with his perfect passer rating on his lone throw.
5. Following New Orleans' first punt of the day, Garoppolo orchestrated a 9-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a 10-yard Mostert touchdown to take the lead, 28-27. Sunday was the third time in the Super Bowl era that both teams scored at least 27 points in first half of a regular or postseason game [Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals - 35-27 (Nov. 2005); Green Bay Packers vs. Colts - 28-27 (Nov. 1997)].
6. San Francisco's defense came up big in the third quarter after a tipped pass for an interception ruined Garoppolo's unblemished stat line. The 49ers held the Saints to a field goal on their first drive of the second half. Their second, D.J. Jones forced an Alvin Kamara fumble that was recovered by DeForest Buckner on their own 20 yard line. New Orleans' fumble marked their first of the 2019 season. Garoppolo threw two passes, the first to Kyle Juszczyk for 15 yards to move the 49ers inside the 5-yard line. The second, a screen to George Kittle for the score.
7. While Shanahan dug into his bag of tricks, Payton attempted to do the same on a fourth down play. On 4th-and-18, the Saints faked a punt, as Taysom Hill threw a pass intended for receiver Tre'Quan Smith. Smith was defended by Tarvarius Moore when the ball fell incomplete. Head referee John Hussey explained the no call, given there's no pass interference in punt formation. The 49ers received the ball midfield with the turnover on downs.
8. The 49ers capitalized off the turnover on downs, running a 14-play, 55-yard drive that shaved just under seven minutes off the clock. Garoppolo faced four third downs, three of which were converted by penalty. The 49ers cashed in on the drive with a 6-yard touchdown to Bourne, his second of the game.
9. New Orleans answered back with a 21-yard touchdown from Brees to Michael Thomas to cut the 49ers lead to two with just over six minutes in the game. San Francisco drove down the field, however was held to a field goal with under two and half left in the game. The back and forth continued as New Orleans offense scored on a 7-play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a Smith touchdown. The Saints were 0-2 on two-point conversions on Sunday. The first, Fred Warner stuffed Hill outside of the end zone in the first quarter. The second, on an incomplete pass intended for Smith.
10. With :53 seconds left on the clock and down by a point, Garoppolo and Co. worked their way downfield to set up Robbie Gould for a game-winning field goal. Garoppolo made two completions to Kittle, including a 39-yard catch and run where the tight end turned upfield to move the 49ers into scoring position. A face mask penalty on the play against safety Marcus Williams tacked on an additional 15 yards. As time expired, Gould sealed the victory with a 30-yard field goal.
11. One of the biggest losses of the game was an injury to Weston Richburg. The center went down in the third quarter in what appeared to be a knee injury and was carted off the field. Richburg will receive an MRI once the team returns to Santa Clara.
Dee Ford left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. Nick Bosa left the game with a knee injury and returned. Kyle Juszczyk (head) and Ahkello Witherspoon (stinger) also left the game and returned shortly thereafter. K'Waun Williams suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter and did not return. Shanahan will provide updates on players Monday afternoon.
12. Garoppolo finished the game 26-of-35 passing for 349 yards and a career-high tying four touchdowns for a 131.7 passer rating. In the first half alone, the quarterback garnered a perfect passer rating of 158.3 while completing 11-of-12 passing for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's unbelievable. No matter what happens," Shanahan said of his quarterback. "He's had a lot of good games this year. He has made some mistakes. But he's the same guy every day. Just to be able to deal with that crowd noise and to deal with adversity that went in and out throughout the game, to be able to deal with me, he's the same."