Over the past month I’ve highlighted the best plays of the pervious week of football. The best single moments and performances that drive you to the edge of your seat. While going through this week’s offerings, I found myself tagging play after play in the 49ers-Saints tilt. So, this is a special column, focusing on a single game, likely the best one we’ll get this season, and highlighting the premier moments of playcalling and individual effort.
10. Warner Saw It Coming
The 49ers stuffed the Saints on two two-point attempts. Ultimately, they were game-changers. A defensive penalty placed the snap even closer to the goal line here, and then Fred Warner produced a ridiculous individual effort. The Saints clearly worked on this play leading into the game, with both Taysom Hill and defensive lineman Mario Edwards involved.
Prior to the snap you can see Fred Warner motioning with Hill and those few steps put him in front of Ryan Ramczyk’s reach. At full speed, Warner ultimately tackles Hill for a three-yard loss. Doomed from the start.
9. Tre’Quan Taps Circle
Fred Warner is highlighted on this list for multiple great plays. He wasn’t perfect on this tackle, and it’s a precursor to a confident, almost half-speed spin and prance into the endzone by Tre’Quan Smith. It really ties the go-ahead score in an amusing bow.
8. You Can’t Tackle Nightcrawler
I know you. You hold down the sprint button while gaming. So does Raheem Mostert, apparently. Whenever two defenders close on a ball carrier but end up tackling each other, that’s the football equivalent of slapstick humor. Diving at dust, like attempting to tackle nightcrawler.
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7. Non-PI Fake Punt by Saints
I’ve watched a lot of football. You’ve watched a lot of football. I’ve never seen this, have you? There is clearly holding and interference by the defender against the gunner… yet it’s all legal when the opposition lines up in a punt formation. It makes sense, as the defender immediately turns into a blocker off the snap. If a punter lobbed a pass to the gunner each time, interference would be called on every snap. It’s a good rule. I just wonder if Sean Payton knew the rule, or if he thought the defensive back would react differently in the moment.
6. Manny Responds With Twisting TD
The Saints scored a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. The 49ers then scored a 75-yard touchdown just one play later. Look, this play isn’t beautiful. It’s total disorder. A double move puts one safety, Von Bell, on the floor. This means Marcus Williams is isolated on a skied pass, where he must keep track of both the receiver and the ball. He does neither, as leaning against Emmanuel Sanders actually takes Williams out of the play. It was a difficult day for Williams, just one game in a tremendous season for the safety.
5. Shanahan Digs Into His Bag of Tricks
This is fun football. Emmanuel Sanders opens in deep motion. Kyle Juszczyk takes a quick handoff and pitches it immediately after drawing his assignment. This gives Raheem Mostert an entire third of the field open, resulting in nearly a 20 yard gain. Consider this was called on third down and it makes you appreciate Kyle Shanahan’s willingness to toe the line of failure in order to achieve success.
4. Nick Bosa Makes Case For DPOY
Despite finishing 48-46, this game did feature a few sterling defensive plays… unfortunately two feature Taysom Hill getting stuffed as the ball carrier. Without Nick Bosa’s crazy individual effort, Hill easily gets the necessary one yard. I’m sure Ryan Ramczyk was coach to allow edge rushers inside, as it would make it nearly impossible to reach the ball carrier. Bosa beats the impossible, bends, and lays out to bring Hill down for an eight-yard loss. Incredible.
3. We've Seen This One Before
You’ve seen this play before. Week 13, Bills receiver John Brown tossing a touchdown to Devin Singletary. One week later, the 49ers burned the Saints. Coaches learn from other coaches. Craig Robertson comes inches away from blowing this play up. He knifes through the middle and momentarily hesitates while guessing who has the ball. That millisecond gives Emmanuel Sanders just enough space to launch his pass to Raheem Mostert down the sideline for a touchdown.
2. Jared Cook, Talent Realized
This level of body control always amazes me. Jared Cook is working to the inside between both defenders, yet the pass forces him off that line. In one elegant spin (opposite of his momentum) Cook throws his backside shoulder even further back at the exact moment to high point the football with both feet off the ground. Obviously, this ends in a devastating hit that in no way should be glorified, but Cook’s sole focus on the football displays zero fear.
Steve Spurrier once compared Cook’s size and athletic ability to Calvin Johnson. It’s been an up and down career for Cook, but in good situations the highs have been outstanding. Hopefully he returns back to full strength after recovering from this head injury, because Cook has brought an added dimension to the Saints typically narrow offense.
1. Kittle Carries Both Teams
In a game full of creative play calls this individual effort stands above the rest. From a stacked alignment, George Kittle’s hesitation step and route running is perfect as it creates instant separation for a first down. Kittle doesn’t settle, as he rumbles down the sideline, carrying one, then two, then three defenders for an extra 20 yards after contact… plus a personal foul call for a facemask. Insanity, and one of the plays of the entire season.