METAIRIE, La. (AP) -When Sean Payton described the wild mood swings occurring across the NFL each week, it seemed fitting that a coach in New Orleans would say it's either a ``carnival or crisis.''
New Orleans is home to a carnival during Mardi Gras, after all, and has seen its share of crises, both meteorological and man-made, so the locals certainly can relate.
At the Saints' suburban training headquarters this week, it's carnival time for a variety of reasons. A two-game losing skid is over, thanks to strong performances by running back Deuce McAllister and reserve receivers who were pressed into service during a 31-17 victory against San Francisco on Sunday.
``Having Deuce back and seeing not only was he back but he was playing well, that's a plus for us,'' Payton said Monday. ``Secondly ... with receiver depth, those are big plusses.
uys getting in - not just getting in but playing well.''
While McAllister said he was healthy and had a few promising runs during the preseason, Payton gave him only two carries during the first three games, so no one really knew how productive he would be with sustained work in a regular season game after having reconstructive surgery on both knees during the previous three seasons.
His 20 carries for 73 yards and one touchdown rushing, along with his 10-yard reception to convert a third down on what turned out to be a touchdown drive, was a major morale boost for those wearing black and gold. What pleased the Saints most was how McAllister fared when there were no holes. He broke tackles in the backfield, moved the pile and even dived over it for his touchdown.
``All of us were anxious just to see how he was going to do,'' Payton said. ``He had the one run that looked like it was a gain of 2 and then all of a sudden there's this big mosh that kind of moves forward for 3 more yards. That was encouraging.''
Lance Moore wound up with a career best 101 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Robert Meachem, the former 2007 first-round draft choice who never dressed for a game as a rookie, showed continued improvement with two long catches for 99 yards, including a 47-yard TD. Devery Henderson added an 81-yard reception.
``The proof is right there,'' Brees said. ``Some of those younger guys like Meachem, who continues to get better every time out - the more time we spend together, the more we're going to build that trust and confidence. Lance, I've said all along, has been a great role player. I've always known, and all of us have known, that he could be that guy if given the opportunity.''
With all the injuries and unknowns coming into the game, it appeared the Saints would need another big game from Reggie Bush. The 49ers made stopping Bush the focus of their defense, holding him to only 38 total yards. He did not score for the first time this season.
What San Francisco really needed to do was pressure Brees. They couldn't get to him, not even with rookie fifth-round draft choice Carl Nicks playing left guard in place of suspended veteran Jamar Nesbit.
Payton said Nicks did well and that, with solid protection, Brees was extraordinary.
got a great ability to see the defense and understand where he wants to go with the football,'' Payton said. ``Everyone on the field, with each snap, understands that within the progression of a pass pattern, they could be viable receivers and so they understand the importance of just painting a clean picture for him and then just let him sort through where he wants to go with it.
``It allows me as a play-caller to be real aggressive.''
While New Orleans' defense continues to give up a lot of yards, ranking 27th with 372 yards allowed per game, the unit made several big plays to stall drives against the 49ers, including two interceptions, a fumble recovery and six sacks.
Considering the Saints (2-2) have been plagued by injuries and that both of their losses have been by narrow margins, linebacker Scott Fujita sees reason for optimism.
``We could easily be sitting here at 4-0,'' Fujita said. ``I don't think we're a .500 football team. We're a lot better than that and I think that's going to start to show.
``You're going to start to see us string some things together,'' Fujita continued. ``If this offense keeps clicking the way they are and the defense can keep playing the way we did this home game and the last home game (a 24-20 win over Tampa Bay), it could be a big year for us.''

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