Unfortunately for Niner fans, the Atlanta Falcons secured their 10th victory, which leaves them with a NFC-leading 10-1 regular season record.
At 8-2-1, the 49ers still have a shot for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but with a hellacious remaining schedule, the Niners will likely be in a brawl just to hold onto the second seed, with both the Green Bay Packers (7-3) and Chicago Bears (8-3) nipping at their heels.
Nevertheless, the 49ers have a reason to celebrate after a huge road win against a top passing offense in the New Orleans Saints.
This was a true team win with outstanding individual performances on both sides of the ball.
Without further ado, here are the winners and losers of the 49ers' 31-21 road victory.
In just his second start, the young Colin Kaepernick turned in another solid performance.
Kaepernick wasn't as spectacular as his Monday night showing, but Jim Harbaugh and Co. could care less. A win is a win—and a road win at that.
Kaepernick did throw an unpleasant interception at the end of the second quarter, but young quarterback his composure after the half, leading a beautiful six-play drive that concluded with a short pass to Frank Gore for a touchdown.
After a solid showing on the road, Kaepernick has likely solidified his starting gig.
I understand. I'm likely being picky here, but if you watched this game, Ginn's first-quarter fumble was excruciating, especially considering the Saints turned that turnover into points.
Jim Harbaugh obviously thought so too, benching Ginn in favor of Kyle Williams on the next punt return.
This wasn't a performance-based selection but rather one of sympathy.
Williams, who has played with a chip on his shoulder this season, was carted off––along with running back Kendall Hunter (ankle)—after suffering what looked to be a serious knee injury.
If this injury is indeed serious, Williams may have played his last down with the 49ers.
Aldon and Justin Smith both finished with 1.5 sacks, but their constant pressure, especially in the second half, played a huge part in the Niner defense holding the explosive Saints offense to just 21 points.
Justin Smith only has two sacks on the season, but it has long been known that you can't measure this behemoth of a man by mere statistics.
Aldon on the other hand has racked up the stats, and is still currently the leading sack master in the league with a staggering 16.5 sacks.
Both studs will likely be locks for All-Pro selections. Aldon may even get DPOY consideration if he continues to play at this level for the remainder of the season.
After a magnificent 2011 season, Akers has not played up to snuff in 2012, and his struggles continued today in New Orleans.
Akers missed a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that could have given the 49ers a 34-21 lead. The second missed kick was due to a block and was not Akers fault.
Again, this could be a overreaction. However, based on Akers play this season, Niner fans have to start wondering about Akers psyche at this point.
Ahmad Brooks was the defensive MVP against the Saints on Sunday afternoon. The 49ers linebacker was everywhere.
Brooks recorded 1.5 sacks on the afternoon, while also intercepting an errant Drew Brees pass that led to a 49ers defensive touchdown.
If there wasn't heavy competition at outside linebacker (including from his own teammate), Brooks would be a solid Pro Bowl selection in 2012. He has proven to be one of the more underrated players at his position.
Mario Manningham was Kaepernick's most consistent option at receiver this afternoon, but Walker proved to be 49ers biggest playmaker.
Walker recorded three catches for 81 receiving yards, and his biggest play came in the third quarter when the backup tight end caught third-down pass for 45 huge yards. It eventually led to a Frank Gore touchdown.
Walker has been relatively quiet this season, especially early on, but his role in the passing game has picked up in the last few weeks.