After going 0-4 to start the 2007 season, the stumbling Saints were in danger of falling to 1-3 Sunday with another loss to the San Francisco 49ers. But a banged-up team, especially its banged-up offense, made sure that didn't happen.
Despite missing five starters on the offensive side of the ball, the Saints piled up 467 total yards -- with 363 coming from the arm of quarterback Drew Brees -- in a satisfying 31-17 victory over the 49ers.
As a bonus, the Saints (2-2) got a big game from two-time Pro Bowl running back Deuce McAllister, who saw significant playing time for the first time since tearing his left ACL on Sept. 24, 2007.
An exuberant McAllister rushed for 73 yards and a one-yard touchdown on 20 carries, and also caught one pass for 10 yards as the Saints, despite all their injuries, shredded the 49ers defense.
Defensively, the Saints came up with a season-high six sacks after getting just four in the first three games, forced three turnovers and also held 49ers running back Frank Gore, who led the NFL with 412 total yards coming into the game -- to 113 yards rushing and receiving.
The performance was a bit surprising in that 14 of the 53 players on the active roster, an unprecedented total for coach Sean Payton, either missed practice or had limited participation in the final two major workouts leading up to the game.
"With all the guys that didn't practice this week, and we had a lot, I have never been a part of a week of preparation where so many guys missed practice," Payton said. "But I thought we handled it well today."
The 49ers would certainly have been better off had Brees been among the Saints' walking wounded this week.
He had a huge game against them for the second straight year, this time hitting on 23 of 35 passes for 363 yards and three scores -- two to Lance Moore and one to Robert Meachem -- as the Saints took a 21-6 lead to halftime, which the defense protected in the second half.
But the most energy from the team and crowd came from the return of McAllister, who did not play in two of the first three games.
"The most important thing for us was to get a win," said McAllister. "We had a sour taste in our mouths the last two weeks with games we thought we should have won."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm sure that a lot of people weren't giving him a chance to come back. He proved a lot of people wrong. He came out today and played exceptionally well." -- Saints QB Drew Brees, on seeing Deuce McAllister rush for 73 yards in his first extended playing time since tearing his left ACL last September.
UNDER THE RADAR: Third-year wide receiver Lance Moore is making the most of his opportunity to play with Marques Colston and David Patten ailing. He established career highs with seven catches for 78 yards last week at Denver, then had seven receptions for a career-best 101 yards and TDs of five and 33 yards in a 31-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
WR David Patten aggravated a groin injury during the first half of Sunday's game with the San Francisco 49ers and did not return.
FS Chris Reis, who played mainly on special teams, injured a hamstring against the 49ers and did not return.
WR Marques Colston missed his third straight game Sunday with a torn ligament in his left thumb.
CB Aaron Glenn did not play against the 49ers because of a strained ligament in his right ankle.
TE Jeremy Shockey, who had surgery last Tuesday to repair a sports hernia, was inactive for the game with the 49ers.
FB Mike Karney was inactive for Sunday's game with a sprained right ankle.
CB Randall Gay missed the game with the 49ers because of a right hamstring injury.
RB Aaron Stecker was sidelined for the fourth straight game with a hamstring injury that he aggravated in practice two weeks ago.
SLB Scott Fujita, who missed two games with a bruised right knee, started against the 49ers.
TE Mark Campbell, who was sidelined for last week's game with a hamstring injury, started in place of Jeremy Shockey.
TE Sean Ryan, who was signed on Wednesday, was released because TE Mark Campbell was healthy enough to play against the 49ers.
FB Olaniyi Sobomehin was signed off the practice squad when FB Mike Karney was ruled out of the game Friday.