NFL

1 Reason a 49ers-Saints Playoff Matchup Just Got a Little Awkward

One of the biggest matchups of Week 14 of the 2019 NFL season was the San Francisco 49ers against the New Orleans Saints. Any time two of the NFL’s top teams square off, it makes for an interesting game. This one definitely didn’t disappoint. It’s a solid bet that many fans weren’t ready for just how good of a game it really was. One wrinkle between the teams’ two coaches, however, may have made the postgame handshake a bit awkward. 

How the Saints and 49ers are faring in 2019 so far

The 49ers are 11-3 through Week 15 and leading the NFC West, though the Seattle Seahawks are nipping at their heels for the division title. The Niners’ record has them tied with the Seahawks and Packers for the top spot in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Saints have clinched the NFC South. At 10-3 heading into a Monday night matchup with the Colts on Dec. 16, they’re battling for a first-round bye.

Their game against San Francisco clearly had serious playoff implications. Entering the game, both teams were near the top of the conference, and they remained there after it was over. But now the hierarchy is getting a little clearer. 

A look at the Saints and 49ers wild Week 14 throwdown

An admission by 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan made a possible Saints-49ers playoff matchup a little awkward.
Kyle Shanahan. | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 49ers prevailed over the Saints in Week 14 with one of the best and wildest games of the NFL season. When all is said and done, it may go down as the top game of 2019. The 49ers won 48-46. Here were some interesting tidbits from the game

  • It was San Francisco’s first victory in New Orleans since 2014. 
  • The win gives San Francisco their first 11-win season, and their best 13-game start since 1997 when Steve Young was still under center. 
  • Facing fourth-and-two late in the game, the 49ers threw to tight end George Kittle. Kittle gained 39 yards on an incredible pass and catch that included a facemask penalty tacked on at the end. 
  • The teams combined for 581 total yards and 55 points in the first half alone. They had 981 yards combined for the entire game. 
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 94 point total was the most between two 10-win teams in NFL history. 
  • It was the highest-scoring 49ers vs. Saints game of all time. 

It was a high-scoring and emotional affair. Niners’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sounded off on the importance of the victory afterward: 

“This game meant a lot,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “It was a big one for us. It was a big game. These two in a row, they were playoff-atmosphere games, so I think that will serve us well going forward.”

It was a great game, but what exactly made it awkward between the two head coaches? 

Why a potential playoff matchup might be a little awkward

An admission by 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan made a possible Saints-49ers playoff matchup a little awkward.
Jimmy Garoppolo (left) and Drew Brees could face each other in the playoffs. | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Before the game, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was effusive in his praise of Saints’ coach Sean Payton, calling him “one of the best.” He also admitted something that may have made their showdown a bit awkward: he said he steals plays from Payton

“Sean’s been one of the best, if not the best, for a very long time. Love his personality and his playcalling, how creative he is, how aggressive he is. He’s going to keep coming at you every play and attack your coverages. He’s a guy I always try to watch, pretty much every week…I’ve taken a lot…we’ve all taken a lot. We’ll keep doing that, too.” 

While Shanahan made his comments with a smile, no one could blame him for stealing from Payton. Under Payton, the Saints have had one of the most effective offenses in football for the better part of the last decade. Now that the Saints (and the rest of the NFC) are looking up at them in the overall standings, however, Payton may want to start pilfering some plays from Shanahan’s playbook.