In the first quarter of today's NFC divisional playoff game in San Francisco between the 49ers and New Orleans Saints, the Saints took the opening kickoff and drove down to the San Francisco 7-yard line. On 3rd-and-6, Saints running back Pierre Thomas caught a pass at the 5-yard line and had only one man in between him and the end zone.
Fortunately for the 49ers, that man was 49ers safety Donte Whitmer.
Whitmer made a helmet-to-helmet hit on Thomas, stopping him cold and causing him to fumble the football. The fumble was recovered by 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis on the 2-yard line.
Pierre Thomas left the game after the hit and did not return. No penalty was called on the play, but the league may have to review the hit as it was helmet-to-helmet, and Whitmer could be looking at a possible fine.
The hit turned out to be a critical play in the game. Instead of coming away with a touchdown or a field goal on the opening drive of the game, the Saints were held scoreless on the drive and lost the momentum. The 49ers were able to build a 17-0 lead by the end of the first quarter on their way to a 36-32 victory.
NFL/FOX video via.
49ers Donte Whitner Knocks Out Pierre Thomas With Helmet-To-Helmet Hit [Outside the Boxscore]