After a stirring effort by the San Francisco 49ers to pull within two points and a conversion attempt that, like New Orleans’ critical two-pointer late in Super Bowl XLIV, prompted a dramatic replay review, the home team squandered its heroic effort by giving the Saints enough time to drive down the field and win, 25-22.
Kicker Garrett Hartley, redeeming himself after a poor showing in Week One, knuckleballed a 37-yard attempt to send the Saints to 2-0 — and to drop the 49ers to 0-2.
Getting the ball with 1:14 to play, Drew Brees led the Saints down the field in six plays before an attempt that, at first blush, appeared to have been partially blocked. ESPN replays showed that the ball narrowly missed the arm of defensive tackle Ray McDonald.
Setting the stage for the final drive was an impressive 49ers scoring effort that unimpressively left too much time on the clock. Still, it initially appeared that the Saints would need only to recover an onside kick and take a knee after initial replays suggested that the game-clinching two-point try was not successful. Tight end Vernon Davis seemed to secure possession of a ball thrown by quarterback Alex Smith only after exiting the front of the end zone. ESPN offered up a definitive angle following a commercial, which showed that Davis had two feet down when the ball was across the plane and which set the stage for the fateful final drive.
UPDATE: From the end-zone view, it looked like the kick was blocked. A slow-motion replay from an angle closer to the line of scrimmage suggested that the trajectory of the ball did not change after passing by defensive tackle Ray McDonald’s arm, which prompted Ron Jaworski to declare that the kick was merely a low-flying knuckler. The ESPN crawl at the bottom of the screen now says the kick was partially blocked. If so, the thing may have been no good without the assist from McDonald.