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49ers dazzle with fourth-down bombshell vs. Saints

This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 10, the San Francisco 49ers' overtime win over the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers' road win, as well as the Detroit Lions' thrilling victory over the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs' fourth-quarter rally to win in Buffalo are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 10.

A week ago, the 49ers' once-promising season seemed to be spiraling into disarray following a frenzied late-game loss at home to the St. Louis Rams on a fumble at the goal line. That presented the 49ers with a two-game losing streak heading into a game against the New Orleans Saints -- who were coming off a two-game winning streak -- at the Superdome, where the Saints had won 11 consecutive games. That's a tough assignment, and the result was one of the more exciting games of the season.

Here are the key moments before the moment:

Gore for the score

The play:49ers running back Frank Gore scores from four yards out to help San Francisco capture early momentum.

The aftermath: Gore's score was set up by an interception by Antoine Bethea on the Saints' third play of the game. Three plays later, Gore was in the end zone for a scoring run that snapped a personal six-game streak without a running touchdown. It was a workman-like day for Gore, who carried the ball 23 times for 81 yards. It's a good thing for the 49ers when Gore carries the ball that many times; the team is 33-5-1 when Gore rushes the ball 21 or more times.

Playing a little Hyde and seek

The play: Rookie running back Carlos Hyde scores on a 9-yard touchdown run that puts the 49ers up 14-0 on the shellshocked Saints.

The aftermath: Suddenly it appeared that the 49ers might just turn this game into a rout. The Saints' first two drives resulted in an interception and a three-and-out. The 49ers capitalized on the Saints' early game struggles by answering with two touchdowns. The Saints, however, are very capable of turning the switch offensively.

Saints surge back

The play: Trailing 21-10, Saints quarterback Drew Brees eludes two 49ers defenders and tosses an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.

The aftermath:A 15-yard touchdown play from quarterback Colin Kaepernick to receiver Anquan Boldin put the 49ers up 21-10 in the second quarter. It took until late in the third quarter for the Saints to finally show some life. The comeback started spectacularly, with Brees escaping the clutches of 49ers blitzers Michael Wilhoite and Eric Reid before finding Graham in the end zone. The Saints followed up that scintillating score with another scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter to take a 24-21 lead. Brees marched the Saints 80 yards in 12 plays, including a fourth-down completion to receiver Marquez Colston and then punished the 49ers' blitz again for a touchdown throw to Graham.

Fourth and the season

The play: Down 24-21 and facing a fourth-and-10 situation with a minute and a half left in the game, Kaepernick scrambles away from the Saints' pass rush and heaves a long pass to receiver Michael Crabtree, who corrals the ball for a 51-yard gain.

The aftermath: The Saints defense had dominated in the second half as the team mounted its comeback. It sacked Kaepernick four times and four consecutive second-half drives resulted in punts. With their backs against the wall, the 49ers produced the moment that might have saving their season. That miraculous play set up kicker Phil Dawson's game-tying 45-yard field goal. However, 44 seconds remained on the clock, plenty of time for the potent Saints offense to muster up a response.

Best ending that never was

The play: A last-second Hail Mary attempt is caught by Graham for what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown. Instead, the play was nullified by a pass-interference penalty on Graham for pushing off on the play.

The aftermath: The Saints managed to march 33 yards in 40 seconds to set up the final play of regulation. Graham's push on 49ers defensive back Perrish Cox meant this showdown would move on into overtime.

The moment

The play: After each teams' first drives of the overtime period stalled without a score, and with five and a half minutes remaining in overtime, Brees is sacked by 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks and fumbles the ball. Rookie linebacker Chris Borland jumps on the loose pigskin and the 49ers gain possession at the Saints' 17-yard line.

The aftermath:49ers coach Jim Harbaugh immediately sends out Dawson to boot the 35-yard game-winning kick, dealing the Saints their first loss at home in more than a year.

The sack and forced fumble to set up the winning score was sweet redemption for Brooks, who had a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that helped the Saintspull out a late win a season ago.

Despite the defeat, the Saints are still in first place in the woeful NFC South. The 49ers, meanwhile, prevented a potential dip into the cellar of the NFC West with the win (coupled with the St. Louis Rams' loss to the Arizona Cardinals). With the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and resurgent Dallas Cowboys currently holding the wild-card spots in the NFC -- if the season ended today -- and a playoff mainstay such as the Green Bay Packers threatening to make another run toward the postseason, it was almost imperative that the 49ers halt that losing streak in New Orleans. Now, the 49ers face a two-game stretch of winnable games -- at the New York Giants and at home against the Washington Redskins -- before hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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