Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/16/12
 New Orleans Saints 32
San Francisco 49ers – 36
This was easily the most entertaining playoff game not only of this round, but from the entire playoffs so far.  The Saints came into the game as a favorite, even though they were playing on the 49ers home turf.  This game proves the importance of home field advantage against teams that don’t travel all that well… remember, the Saints last loss was against another NFC West team, the St. Louis Rams, back on the night before Halloween and was another road game.  Also, don’t forget what happened to the Saints against yet another NFC West team last year in the playoffs, as they got upended by a Seahawks team that really hadn’t been very good at all in 2010.  Or, maybe the NFC West is just the Saints’ kryptonite.
Alex Smith (327 total yards, 4 TDs) proved himself in this game, not only getting a win against what was considered a superior opponent, but putting the team on his shoulders in the 4thquarter and actually leading the way to victory.  This game, more than the excellent regular season he has, exorcised his demons that spoke the word “bust” whenever his name was mentioned.  To put icing on the cake, Smith is still dancing, while his fellow draft-mate Aaron Rodgers isn’t.  This game wasn’t lost because of the play of Drew Brees (467 total yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs), but he did throw a couple of costly picks. 

Once again, the Saints’ inability to stop anyone reared its ugly head, as every time Brees punched the 49ers defense, the Saints defense allowed the 49ers to punch right back; and the last time was the knockout.
Vernon Davis’s (7-180, 2 TDs) first playoff action turned out to be huge, as the veteran TE stepped up in a big way as Smith’s favorite target on the afternoon.  Davis started coming on later in the year, and if he keeps that momentum going, he could get back in the top 5 of TEs.  Even though Michael Crabtree (4-25, 1 TD) didn’t have a great day, he still caught a TD and had just as many targets as Davis (10 each).

Once again, Marques Colston (9-136, 1 TD) and Jimmy Graham (5-103, 2 TDs) each had big days, and Graham’s 4thquarter 66 yard TD would have been talked about all week long had the Saints managed to hold on and win the game.  The scary thing about Graham is that he’s just going to get better, and weeks like this one will end up being more the norm than the exception.

The 49ers didn’t end up running a whole lot in this game, even though Frank Gore (13 car., 89 yards; 7 rec., 38 yards) was effective with the few carries he got.  Gore did catch seven passes out of the backfield, which certainly boosted his value for PPR playoff leagues.  Gore will find a tougher road against the Giants next week, but he’s still worth using because of his role as feature back on all downs.

Darren Sproles (3 car., 3 yards; 15 rec., 119 yards, 1 TD) didn’t matter much at all as an RB, but he had an insane 19 targets out of the backfield as Brees knew Sproles was one of his best playmakers and looked to get him involved as much as possible.  Sproles has to be considered keeper worthy in PPR leagues, even though he didn’t have many touches all season long.
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