Garoppolo outduels Brees as 49ers down Saints

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Jimmy Garoppolo threw four touchdowns as the San Francisco 49ers defeated the New Orleans Saints 48-46 with a last-gasp field goal in a high-scoring battle of potential Super Bowl contenders on Sunday.

Niners quarterback Garoppolo finished with 349 passing yards from 26 completions as San Francisco rallied superbly with a late drive after Drew Brees had helped the Saints take a 46-45 lead with less than a minute left.

Garoppolo showed great composure as the seconds ticked down, converting a do-or-die 4th & 2 with a short pass to find tight end George Kittle.

Kittle then charged forward, shrugging off the attentions of two tacklers to advance 39 yards and take the 49ers within field goal range.

It was left to veteran kicker Robbie Gould to deliver the decisive field goal, the 37-year-old nailing his kick from 30 yards to silence the Superdome in dramatic fashion.

The other standout of a scintillating win was Niners receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who finished with 157 yards from seven catches and a touchdown. Sanders also tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in the second quarter.

The win sees the 49ers improve to 11-2 to regain first place in the NFC West division, although Seattle would reclaim top spot with victory over the Los Angeles Rams later Sunday.

The Saints meanwhile fell to 10-3 with the defeat, potentially complicating their route through the playoffs as they chase a berth in the Super Bowl in Miami in February.

Saints quarterback Brees meanwhile finished with five touchdowns and 349 yards with no interceptions in a flawless display.

Brees had started the game in imperious fashion, quickly helping the Saints into a 27-14 lead early in the second quarter with four touchdowns.

But the 49ers rallied to lead by 28-27 at half-time and came back into the game as their defense finally got a grip on the New Orleans scoring.

With the fourth quarter ticking down, Brees looked to have hauled the Saints into a winning position after finding Tre'Quan Smith who skipped through some feeble scoring for a touchdown to make it 46-45.

Crucially however the Saints missed the two-point conversion, allowing Garoppolo and the 49ers a chance to win via Gould's field goal.

In other early games on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens sealed their playoff berth with a 24-17 defeat of the Bills in Buffalo.

Lamar Jackson threw three touchdowns but ended with only 145 yards and 16 completions on a day when neither offense managed to fire on all cylinders.

The Ravens now lead the AFC North on 11-2.

At Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers threw for 195 yards and a touchdown as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Washington Redskins 20-15.

The Packers improved to 10-3 with the win to tighten their grip on the NFC North.