The one-win San Francisco 49ers have been seriously unwatchable this year, but they competently pulled off a shrewd play in Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
The Niners were down 28-20 with eight seconds left in the first half; the Saints had a first-down situation on the Niners’ 13. San Francisco’s defenders deliberately held the Saints’ receivers, forcing Brees to wait it out until he threw the ball to the ground in the vicinity of running back Travaris Cadet in order to avoid a sack.
Jimmie Ward, Keith Reaser, and Eric Reid were all flagged for holding penalties on the play, but the Saints were only able to take a five-yard penalty for their lost time in the red zone. New Orleans was left with four seconds, and brought out the field goal unit to take a 31-20 lead into halftime.
The Niners’ tactic was a variation of an old Buddy Ryan tactic, coined the “Polish Goalline.” Ryan’s version used more than 11 defensive players to guarantee a penalty for too many men while bleeding the clock, but San Francisco opted for the strategy of latching on to practically every available receiver. The defense achieved its desired result.
The difference of seven versus three points became inconsequential, as the Saints went home with a 41-23 win, but the Niners should be admired for their creativity and effort, like a dog standing on its hind legs for a treat.