WHAT WE LEARNED

This game was proof that in the grand pecking order of the NFC, the Saints are in the middle. This is not a team with the talent enough to contend for a Super Bowl, but it is not the worst team in the conference either. Good teams don’t let San Francisco lay dormant for a half, in this case the second half, and then lose to them in overtime. Now that the aura of playing in the Superdome is gone, the Saints better find it again quickly, because tougher teams await.

DON’T BE FOOLED

Forget the foolishness about the 49ers grumbling about the future of coach Jim Harbaugh and the inconsistency of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The bottom line is that San Francisco when properly motivated and focused is still one of the best teams in the NFL. The 49ers have playmakers all across the board. The Saints don’t have that. The 49ers also have championship character that always gives them a chance to win close games.

BLAME IT ON THE RAMS

As expected, the 49ers came out physical and determined Sunday, no doubt still motivated by their 13-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams the previous week. The Saints couldn’t handle it. San Francisco was the more physical team and played at a speed reminiscent of its play the previous three years. That first half stopped the Saints from getting the Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd into the game early, which is usually too much for road teams to overcome.

CAN WE GET A MULLIGAN

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception on the third play of the game. The result led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Frank Gore, which gave San Francisco a 7-0 lead with 13:01 left in the first quarter.

HOT AND COLD BREES

Brees reverted to his habit of forcing passing and trying to do too much. His throw into double coverage for Jimmy Graham resulted in an interception in the end zone with less than 20 seconds left before halftime. His loose throw on the third play of the game was picked off as well. The two interceptions almost wiped away all of the good things he did during the rest of the game. As for the late fumble in overtime that resulted in the 49ers winning the game, Brees held onto the ball just a little too long.

Up next: The Saints host the Cincinnati Bengals at noon Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

-- Pierce W. Huff