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49ers vs. Saints recap: Colin Kaepernick, strong defensive effort key huge road win

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We provide an initial recap of the 49ers 31-21 win over the Saints.

Chris Graythen

The San Francisco 49ers went into the Superdome on Sunday and emerged from an incredibly physical battle with a huge 31-21 road win. There were plenty of keys to this game, but I think Colin Kaepernick was an early key, and the 49ers defense was a late key. They all combined for a strong team effort to take home a win that moves them 2 1/2 games up on the Seahawks in the NFC West, and maintains their second seed position in the NFC playoff picture.

Colin Kaepernick deserves a ton of credit for coming into an incredibly hostile atmosphere and putting together a solid performance. He made his share of mistakes, including the interception and struggling with the crowd noise, but he made quite a few plays that I think most of us agree Alex Smith would not have attempted. I suppose that requires certain assumptions, but as much as I like Alex Smith, it's the plain truth. The way Colin Kaepernick used his arm and legs was frequently solid and sometimes spectacular.

However, this win probably would not have been secured without a dominating defensive effort. Giving up three touchdowns might not look "dominating", but the 49ers defense announced its presence with authority. After struggling to match last year's monster turnover output, Ahmad Brooks ran back a pick six late in the second quarter and Donte Whitner added one early in the third quarter.

Although the Saints did get back on the board after the second pick-six, the 49ers defense was able to pin their ears back quite a bit. Four players combined for five sacks with Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks each securing 1.5 sacks. It was a thoroughly dominating second half to secure the win.

For now, swing over to 49ers.com/live to check out post-game press conferences, including I'd imagine a question or two about the quarterback position.