Below are five positives, and also five negatives, to take from the New Orleans Saints’ 41-23 road win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

The triumph improved the Saints to 4-4 on the season.


1)—Drew Brees: He’s been absolutely outstanding this season, and Sunday was no exception. Brees completed 28-of-39 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns, without throwing an interception. He's having his best season since 2011, even with the Saints' offensive line suffering from numerous injuries. Even at the age of 37, Brees is showing no signs of slowing down. Hard to believe, some people still want to rebuild by trading him away.

2)—Third Down Efficiency: The Saints were 4-of-11 in third down conversions against the Raiders in week one, before going 3-of-13 against the Giants in week two. Since then, they were 7-of-13 against the Falcons in week three, 11-of-18 against the Chargers in week four, 8-16 against the Panthers in week five, 9-of-14 against the Chiefs in week 6, and 9-of-15 against the Seahawks last week. On Sunday, they were good again, going 11-17 on third down, giving them 6-consecutive games of at least 50% third down efficiency, while holding the 49ers to only 2-of-9. That’s how you get to 4-4, after an 0-3 start, without a lot of key players, and get back into playoff contention.

3)—Mark Ingram: Benched last week against the Seahawks, after a key fumble, Ingram returned with a vengeance on Sunday, carrying the football 15 times for 158 yards, including a career-long 75-yard touchdown run, while also catching a touchdown pass. Oh, Tim Hightower rushed for 85 yards as well.

4)—Michael Thomas: He finished with five catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns, including a spectacular 32-yard TD catch. This guy just continues to impress, and is a star in the making.

5)—The return of Delvin Breaux and Sheldon Rankins: Breaux finished with two tackles, and Rankins with one, but it was just nice seeing them back on the field. The Saints are 4-4 at the midway point, which is impressive, considering they played most of the the first half without key starters, including these two. Having them healthy for the second half of the season is reason for optimism.


1)—Defense: Colin Kaepernick threw for 398 yards, while the 49ers racked up close to 500 yards of total offense. San Francisco hurt themselves in the first half, with an offensive pass interference, followed by an interception, and then turned the ball over on downs on consecutive possessions. I guess you can credit the New Orleans for bending but not breaking, but make no mistake, the defense was not good on Sunday.

2)—Injuries: Terron Armstead, who has been hobbled all year, left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury and did not return, while Dannell Ellerbe, who has appeared in only one game all year, didn't play at all. You just hope that Armstead didn't re-aggravate his knee injury enough to keep him out of any future games. As for Ellerbe, well, based on his injury history, you might think that any games he appears in the rest of the season would be a bonus.

3)—Coby Fleener: He dropped a key third down pass in the first half. Nitpicking a little, as he's been a lot better over the last 5-6 games, but he's supposed to catch those.

4)—Special Teams: Mishandled kicks, a missed field goal, and allowing 104 yards on 3 returns, the Saints' special teams continues to leave a lot to be desired.

5)—Where Is The Fullback In The Goal Line Offense?: Last week, the Saints had the ball on the Seattle 5-yard line twice, and inside the 1-yard line twice, but had to struggle to score, as their halfbacks were stopped every time. On Sunday, on their second touchdown drive in the first quarter, they had the football, first-and-goal, at the 49ers 1-yard line, and threw the ball three times before they scored a touchdown. Again, they scored, but they showed a lack of confidence in their goal line rushing attack by throwing it three times. I wish they'd use John Kuhn more in those situations.