Santa Clara, Calif - The New Orleans Saints rolled to a 41-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Levi's Stadium thanks to some dynamic offensive performances and timely plays by the defense.
The victory - the Saints' fourth in the their past five games - evened the team's record at 4-4, the first time New Orleans has been at .500 this season. The loss dropped the 49ers to 1-7.
Running back Mark Ingram - after fumbling in two consecutive games - had one of the best games of his career, rushing for 158 yards on 15 carries with a 75-yard scoring run and a 5-yard touchdown catch. Ingram's scoring run was the longest of his Saints career and the fourth longest in team history and it was the seventh 100-yard game of his career, tied for fifth in franchise history with Chuck Muncie.
Rookie receiver Michael Thomas also had an excellent performance with two touchdown catches, a 1-yard reception and a juggling 32-yard reception with a defender draped over him. He finished with 73 yards on five receptions.
Quarterback Drew Brees was his usual decisive and efficicent self with three touchdowns and 323 yards passing on 28 of 39 attempts. It was the 30th time Brees has thrown for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, an NFL record.
The defense - while surrendering a number of big plays and yards to the Colin Kaepernick-directed 49ers offense - delivered four turnovers. Middle linebacker Craig Robertson came up with a first half interception and linebacker Nate Stupar forced and recovered a fumble at the goal line, preventing a likely San Francisco touchdown by Mike Davis. Kenny Vaccaro recovered a Kaepernick fumble on fourth down in the final period and on the next 49ers possession stripped the ball from DuJuan Harris that extinguished any hopes of a San Francisco comeback.
The teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense with the Saints finishing with 573 yards. Much of the Saints success can be attributed to their exceptional third-down conversion rate (11 of 17) and zero turnovers. New Orleans also just had four penalties. The Saints broke the 200-yard rushing mark (245 yards) for the first time since Nov. 28, 2011 against the New York Giants as Tim Hightower added 87 yards on 23 carries. That team total is the highest in the Coach Sean Payton era.
The game marked the debut of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, the Saints' first-round draft pick, and the return of cornerback Delvin Breaux. Both players had been sidelined by broken fibulas.
Saints left tackle Terron Armstead left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury. Andrus Peat moved over to his spot and Senio Kelemete came in to play left guard.
The Saints will play host to the Denver Broncos next Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. A win in that game would put the Saints above .500 for the first time since the 2013 season.
Saints stat leaders
Brees, 28 of 39 for 323 yards and three touchdowns
Ingram, 15 carries for 158 yards and two touchdowns
Thomas, five catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns
49ers stat leaders
Colin Kaepernick, 24 of 39 for 398 yards and two touchdowns
DuJuan Harris, 10 carries for 59 yards
Quinton Patton, six catches for 106 yards