SAN FRANCISCO -- During the week leading to the NFC divisional playoff, 49ers quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst had an idea.He presented it to 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, whose reaction was, "Yeah!"And when the 49ers needed their biggest play in a decade, that's what they called upon.Quarterback Alex Smith hit tight end Vernon Davis on a post-pattern in front of New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper for a 14-yard touchdown pass with :09 remaining to provide the winning points in a remarkable 36-32 victory at Candlestick Park on Saturday.The victory moves the 49ers into the NFC championship game for the first time since the 1997 season. The 49ers will either play at Green Bay or at home against the New York Giants.
Smith's performance in the final 4 minutes was monumental for the 49ers. He ran around the left side for a 28-yard touchdown to give the 49ers a 29-24 lead with 2:11 remaining.Then, when it appeared as if the Saints had won the game with Jimmy Graham's 66-yard touchdown reception from Drew Brees with 1:37 left, Smith led the 49ers 85 yards in seven plays.The 49ers went to a play that Chryst developed from his time as an assistant with the Carolina Panthers -- a team that faced the Saints twice a year in the NFC South."He knew there was a red-zone tendency that he felt really strongly about," Roman said. "And it really paid off. . . . It was very specific for the Saints."The epic nature of Smith's pass to Davis conjured memories of Dwight Clark's "The Catch," the play that led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl. It also had a striking resemblance to Terrell Owens' playoff touchdown catch from Steve Young against the Green Bay Packers."We live and we move on and we move on in spectacular fashion," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I know there was 'The Catch.' I don't know what you're going to call this one, 'The Throw and the Catch.'"Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the most passing yards he's ever had in a victory. Davis caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. It was the most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL playoff history.