Saints fans might have gotten an early glimpse of what a playoff game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome could be later this season.
Playing in a game complete with a playoff atmosphere and playoff intensity, embattled Saints kicker Garrett Hartley came through in the clutch again when he hit a 31-yard field goal at the buzzer to lead the team to a 23-20 win agains the 49ers.
The Saints tried out kickers at their practice facility on Tuesday, but Hartley was undeterred.
Trailing 20-17, the Saints drove 48 yards on 12 plays for a game-tying 42-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley with 2:06 left.
The Saints then
The 49ers scored 14 points (two touchdowns) off of Saints turnovers.
The first touchdown came in the second quarter after a fumbled punt by the Saints' Lance Moore. The end result of that miscue came when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin to tie the score at 7.
The second touchdown came in the third quarter after Brees was intercepted by San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks. That play led to a Kaepernick throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis, which gave the 49ers a 17-14 lead.
San Francisco increased its lead to 20-14 when Phil Dawson hit a 29-yard field goal with 13:23 left in the game.
But the Saints cut the score to 20-17 when Hartley hit a 21-yard field goal with 7:50 remaining.