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Saints-49ers playoff game a classic despite bounties

We had some fun Wednesday digging through Elliot Harrison's "Top 20 Games of 2011" countdown.

Harrison has an encyclopedic knowledge of NFL history, which makes him a natural fit for this type of assignment. Full disclosure: I've yet to return his copy of the 1986 AFC Wild Card matchup between the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. Don't bring it up.

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There are just two games left to be revealed, and we don't think we're spoiling any surprise by deducing the NFC Divisional Playoff Game between the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers will be one of them.

The wild 36-32 Niners win had everything you could possibly want. Huge stakes, a raucous home crowd, tons of scoring (34 points in the fourth quarter alone), a symphony of hard hits (poor Pierre Thomas), 12,000 intense camera shots of Jim Harbaugh, The Alex Smithshank Redemption, and even a grown man sobbing uncontrollably (Vernon Davis).

Unfortunately, this instant classic has taken a back seat in history, thanks to the circumstances that immediately proceeded it. Sean Pamphilon's recording of Gregg Williams' infamous battle speech -- recorded in the Saints' team hotel the day before the game -- eventually came to represent the moment the "bounty" scandal went nuclear.

It's also now what this game is best known for ... and that's a damn shame. This was NFL football at its finest. Even one of the league's biggest scandals ever shouldn't obscure that.

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