|National Football League|
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By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- The last time the San Francisco 49ers took the field at the Superdome, they made a gutsy second-half comeback before falling short in the Super Bowl.
Based on New Orleans' home dominance, the challenge for the 49ers to come out ahead could be even tougher when they return to the Big Easy on Sunday to face the Saints.
San Francisco (6-3) appeared to be on the wrong side of a blowout when it trailed Baltimore 28-6 early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII. However, the 49ers overcame a power outage inside the Superdome and rallied to get within two points in the fourth before losing 34-31.
Though a return to New Orleans should certainly bring back memories for those 49ers who lived it, the team's collective focus is on trying to bounce back from a frustrating 10-9 home loss to Carolina last Sunday. That likely won't be easy against a New Orleans team that owns a 176-75 scoring advantage at home, where it improved to 5-0 after a 49-17 rout of Dallas last Sunday night.
"We've got a tough game coming up, and we're not going to wallow in (the loss to Carolina)," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We're going to move on to New Orleans."
A week after suffering their second loss in three games, 26-20 to the New York Jets, the Saints (7-2) recorded an NFL-record 40 first downs and regular season team-record 625 yards against the Cowboys.
"You don't play many games like that, and every once in a while you find yourself on the good end and sometimes you find yourself once in a while on the bad end," New Orleans coach Sean Payton. "You hope when your career is done you have more experiences on the good end."
Drew Brees was 34 of 41 for 392 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, a running game that came in averaging 79.8 yards gained 242 - the franchise's highest total since 1990 - behind a career-best 145 on 14 carries from underachieving third-year pro Mark Ingram.
"It's important for us to have that balance," Payton said.
Brees has completed 74.4 percent of his passes and averaged 367.2 passing yards while throwing 18 TDs and two INTs - including none in the last three games - at home this season.
New Orleans averages 463.6 yards and 35.2 points at home, but it could have trouble reaching those marks Sunday.
The 49ers are fourth in the league allowing 17.2 points per contest and have yielded an average of 11.8 in six games since giving up 28.0 per contest over the first three.
San Francisco's biggest issue, however, is trying to get its offense back on track against a Saints team that's right behind the 49ers allowing an average of 18.1 points. The 49ers averaged 34.8 points and 357.6 yards during a five-game winning streak that ended when they totaled 151 against the Panthers.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 91 yards with an interception and was sacked a season-high six times.
"The way we look at it is as a unit. Offensively, we didn't play well enough to win the game," Harbaugh said. "Across the board, we take accountability for that and have fingerprints on it. I'm not going to go through and dissect position by position, raking anybody over the coals. I don't think that's the best thing for us."
Harbaugh added: "I think their mindset will be what it's always been, it's a blue-collar mindset. That involves fixing things, building things, sutures in our hands and the weapons are in our hands, our fate is in our hands."
Frank Gore was perhaps San Francisco's lone offensive bright spot while running 16 times for 82 yards, but he failed to reach the end zone after scoring four times in the previous two contests. Sixth in the NFL with 700 yards, Gore has averaged 91.5 and 5.4 per carry in his last four games against the Saints, including one from the playoffs.
Mario Manningham had three catches for 30 yards in his first action since injuring his knee Dec. 23.
The 49ers hope tight end Vernon Davis can play after he and rookie safety Eric Reid each suffered a concussion last Sunday. It's also uncertain if receiver Michael Crabtree will make his season debut after suffering an Achilles injury in May.
Crabtree set career highs last season with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns and the release of wide receiver and return man Kyle Williams may have opened the door for his return.
San Francisco has won two straight over New Orleans, including 36-32 in a divisional playoff game Jan. 14, 2012 that snapped the Saints' six-game series winning streak.
In the 49ers' 31-21 win at New Orleans on Nov. 25, Kaepernick threw for 231 yards with a touchdown, an interception and ran for a score. Brees threw three TDs, but his two interceptions were both returned for touchdowns.
Updated November 13, 2013