A pass interference penalty committed by 49ers safety Donte Whitner against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham made Whitner an early goat in the first NFC division-round game.
Whitner quickly redeemed himself.
With running back Pierre Thomas catching a short pass from Drew Brees deep in San Fran territory and instantly accelerating toward the goal line, Whitner flattened Thomas with a legal helmet-to-helmet hit, forcing Thomas to fumble the ball. (Thomas had taken a couple of steps with the ball, and he no longer was a “defenseless receiver.”)
Despite some initial confusion as to whether Whitner stopped the forward progress, the ruling was a fumble.
Thomas has joined Graham in the locker room. Both players possibly have suffered concussions.