49ers’ Win Over Saints Tops Patriots’ Rout in Playoff TV Ratings

The San Francisco 49ers’ last-minute win against the New Orleans Saints grabbed a bigger share of the television audience than the New England Patriots’ 45-10 primetime rout of the Denver Broncos.

San Francisco’s afternoon game against the Saints two days ago drew a 38 share, Lou D’Ermilio, a spokesman for Fox, said in an e-mail. The Patriots-Broncos matchup had a 34 share, CBS said in an e-mailed statement.

The 49ers’ 36-32 victory was viewed by an average of 35.6 million people, making it the National Football League’s most-watched Saturday divisional playoff game since at least 1988 and perhaps the biggest audience ever for such a game, Fox said. The lead changed hands four times in the final four minutes, two seconds at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

The final 21 minutes of the Fox telecast averaged 40.6 million viewers, with the audience peaking at 42.5 million for the end of the game at about 8:20 p.m. Eastern time.

San Francisco trailed 32-29 after Jimmy Graham caught a 66-yard touchdown pass with 1:37 to play. 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who had a 28-yard touchdown run with 2:11 left, then led a winning 85-yard drive capped by a 14-yard scoring pass to Vernon Davis with 9 seconds remaining.

The matchup between the Patriots and Broncos drew the highest overnight rating and share for a primetime second-round playoff game in 11 years, CBS said.

The broadcast had a 20.6 rating, CBS said, while the 49ers’ win had a 20.5 overnight rating, D’Ermilio said. CBS spokesman Gerard Caraccioli said in an e-mail the network didn’t have average audience numbers for the Patriots’ win.

Television ratings for yesterday’s playoff games, including the New York Giants’ 37-20 upset win against the host Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, likely will be released today.

Brady’s Blitz

Tom Brady threw five first-half touchdown passes for the Patriots, who led 35-7 at halftime in the Jan. 14 playoff game. CBS’s ratings and share peaked at 24.1 and 39 between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Eastern time for the game, which kicked off at 8 p.m. Eastern time, the broadcaster said.

The matchup between Brady and Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was thought to have a chance to draw a record audience, media researchers said. Denver’s 29-23 overtime victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago averaged 42.4 million viewers on CBS, a wild-card playoff game record.

Ratings are the percentage of homes with televisions tuned into a program, while share is the percentage of homes that have televisions in use at the time.

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