San Francisco Beats New Orleans 36-32 in NFC

Vernon Davis caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith with 14 seconds left in the game to give the San Francisco 49ers a 36-32 win over the New Orleans Saints to advance to the National Football Conference championship.

The 49ers will play the winner of tomorrow’s NFC divisional game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. In the National Football League’s American Football Conference game today, the Denver Broncos meet the New England Patriots. The Baltimore Ravens host the Houston Texans in tomorrow’s AFC matchup.

Davis caught a 49-yard pass from Smith with just over two minutes left in the first quarter to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. He caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

“I had to take it upon myself to step up and make plays,” Davis said in televised interview. “We practiced the play all week. It was rehearsed.”

The 49ers had a 17-0 lead 43 seconds into the second quarter on Davis’s touchdown, Smith’s 4-yard pass to Michael Crabtree and David Akers’s 25-yard field goal.

Saints’ Rally

Saints quarterback Drew Brees connected with Jimmy Graham on a 14-yard pass and Marques Colston on a 25-yard throw in the second quarter to narrow the gap to a 17-14 at halftime.

Akers kicked a 41-yard field goal to give the 49ers a 20-14 advantage in the third quarter.

The Saints took their first lead with 4 minutes, 11 seconds left in the game on Brees’s 44-yard scoring pass to Darren Sproles for a 24-23 lead. Two minutes later Smith ran 28 yards for a 29-24 lead for the 49ers who failed on a two-point conversion.

Brees put the Saints back on top with a 66-yard pass to Graham. New Orleans’ two-point conversion was successful for a 32-29 lead with one-minute, 48 seconds remaining in the game.

Smith passed for his third touchdown to Davis for the victory.

“On that last drive, three points down, we knew a field goal would take us into overtime,” Smith, who passed for a total of 299 yards, said in a televised interview. “We got a play with a shot at the end zone. Vernon got a great catch in traffic.”

Brees entered the game as the all-time record holder for consecutive postseason passes (215) without an interception, a streak that was broken by two interceptions. Brees completed 40 of 63 passing attempts for 458 yards and four touchdowns for the Saints who had five turnovers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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