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Niners stay in playoff hunt with overtime victory

With the season on the brink, San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Chris Borland recovered an overtime fumble to set up Phil Dawson's 35-yard field goal to knock off the New Orleans Saints, 27-24. Our takeaways:

  1. The Saints have only themselves to blame for the loss. After overcoming a 14-0 deficit to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, their safeties had a horrendous coverage breakdown, allowing a wide open Michael Crabtree to haul in a 51-yard desperation heave on fourth-and-10. Jimmy Graham answered with a 50-yard "Hail Mary" touchdown, only to have it nullified by an obvious offensive pass interference penalty as the clock expired. Drew Brees held the ball too long on consecutive overtime plays, the latter leading to an Ahmad Brooksstrip-sack and Chris Borland's recovery.
  1. Tip your cap to the toughness of a trio of Saints players. Fox Sports sideline reporter Pam Oliver revealed that Graham is getting a maximum of four hours of sleep due to the pain in his right shoulder. Despite battling a shoulder injury of his own, Mark Ingram has carried the ball 24, 30 and 27 times over the past three weeks. For his career, he had never carried more than 21 times in a game before Week 8. Cornerback Keenan Lewis, playing at a Pro Bowl level this season, was ruled out with a quadriceps injury at halftime, but returned to drag his leg around the field. All three veterans made key plays in New Orleans' 14-3 second half.
  1. The 49ers should be in no hurry to rush Patrick Willis back from his toe injury. The defense has been stingy the past two weeks, with Borland leading the charge. The third-round rookie racked up 17 more tackles after blasting through Rams blockers for 18 last week. The front office will have decisions to make this offseason, as Borland has the look of a long-term starter on the inside.
  1. Ingram became the first Saints running back since 2003 with three consecutive 100-yard performances. He hasn't run with quite the same explosiveness or abandon since injuring his shoulder early in last week's game, but deserves credit for breaking tackles, moving the chains and carrying the mail in an injury-depleted backfield.
  1. Marques Colston has been an albatross this season. He fell down on Anthoine Bethea's first-quarter interception and flat dropped a perfectly thrown bomb to end another drive. Colston, 31, isn't getting open, doesn't make many plays after the catch and his once reliable hands have been shaky. He did come through with a 24-yard reception on a key fourth-down.
  1. Anquan Boldin and Keenan Lewis battled to a draw. Boldin made a few signature catch-point plays early, but dropped several passes, including a potential long touchdown.
  1. Thanks to broken coverage, Crabtree topped 50 yards for the first time since Week 3. Vernon Davis hasn't topped 30 yards since returning from a back injury a month ago. The two have combined to average just over 10.0 yards per catch on the season. We've been wondering for weeks now why Stevie Johnson isn't playing more snaps, as he has clearly outplayed Crabtree as Kaepernick's second-most reliable receiver.
  1. Frank Gore had more carries and yards by halftime than he had in the entire game last week. He was bottled up in the second half, however, and replaced by Carlos Hyde in overtime. The 49ers want to be a physical, run-oriented team, but they have been unable to impose their will on the opposing defense for quarters at a time.
  1. Brees continues to be plagued by sloppy play and questionable decision making. His second interception was thrown into triple coverage in the end zone. His overtime performance left a lot to be desired.
  1. If the Falcons had held onto their lead in London, they would be atop the NFC South right now. Instead, the Saints remain the heavy favorites despite Sunday's loss. The 49ers are in the thick of the NFC wild card hunt with winnable games at the Giants and home versus the Redskins in the next two weeks.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 10 game from an action-packed Sunday. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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