New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Sean Payton lit a fire under his kicker during the week, and Garrett Hartley responded Sunday with three fourth- quarter field goals, including the game-winner.
Hartley, who had missed four of his previous six attempts and watched Payton bring in potential replacements during the week, drilled a 31-yard kick as time expired to give the New Orleans Saints a 23-20 come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers.
"I love the way he responded...I'm proud of him," Payton said.
The NFC South-leading Saints (8-2) benefited from a questionable personal foul penalty on Ahmad Brooks and limited the 49ers to 196 total yards.
Drew Brees passed for 305 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the win, while Colin Kaepernick was limited to 127 yards through the air.
Kaepernick threw touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis and was intercepted once as San Francisco (6-4) fell three games behind the Seahawks for NFC West supremacy.
This was the 49ers' third visit to the Superdome in less than a year. They upended the Saints there last season and lost in the Super Bowl to the Ravens 9 1/2 months ago.
Another road victory over New Orleans was within reach, especially after Brooks sent Brees to the turf with a punishing hit late in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble that fellow linebacker Patrick Willis recovered.
Brooks, though, was flagged for his high tackle, and the extended possession resulted in Hartley's game-tying 42-yard field goal with 2:11 on the clock.
"I felt like I hit him with my chest, like I bear-hugged him...kind of hard," Brooks said.
The officials were put to the test again when Kaepernick threw the ball away near his own goal line on the ensuing drive. The quarterback was ruled outside the tackles, but even though the call went the 49ers' way, they had to punt with just under two minutes remaining.
Fair-catch interference put the ball on the Saints' own 40-yard line, and Brees quickly completed 3-of-4 passes for a total 41 yards to move into field- goal range.
"It's a great feeling to share this with my teammates," Hartley said.
The Saints forced three-and-outs on San Francisco's opening three possessions and got on the scoreboard themselves with a lengthy drive late in the first quarter. Robert Meachem's 47-yard catch highlighted the 11-play, 97-yard march, and Josh Hill leaked open for a 3-yard grab near the right pylon for his first career touchdown.
The 49ers caught a break early in the second when Lance Moore muffed a punt and San Francisco recovered at the New Orleans 11. From there, Kaepernick found Boldin in the end zone to tie things up.
There was a 10-point swing in San Francisco's favor late in the half. Corey White was a yard away from an interception return for a touchdown but lost the ball while diving for the goal line. Kaepernick chased down the cornerback along the sideline and pushed him in the back just before he extended the ball, which landed out-of-bounds in the end zone for a touchback.
Frank Gore broke off his longest run of 24 yards after replay upheld the decision, and Phil Dawson booted 55-yard field goal -- one yard shy of his personal best -- to give San Francisco a 10-7 lead.
Travaris Cadet returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards, and three plays later Jed Collins barreled across the goal line from a yard out to give the Saints a 14-10 edge heading into the intermission.
Brees had thrown 149 consecutive passes at home without being intercepted before his floater early in the third quarter was picked off by Brooks, who returned it 22 yards to the New Orleans 22-yard line.
The short field led to Davis, who was a game-time decision after suffering a concussion last week, getting behind the secondary for a go-ahead 17-yard TD.
After the Saints turned the ball over on downs, San Francisco bridged the third and fourth quarters with a 13-play drive that only gained 49 yards but was enough to get Dawson in range for a 29-yard field goal.
Long passes to Meachem and Marques Colston gave the Saints 1st-and-goal inside the 10, but they had to settle for a 21-yarder from Hartley with 7:53 to go.
The Saints improved to 6-0 at home ... New Orleans had 23 first downs to San Francisco's 12 ... Colston had a game-high 80 yards on five receptions and broke Eric Martin's franchise records of 7,854 receiving yards and 7,865 yards from scrimmage ... Saints cornerback Jabari Greer was carted off the field in the first quarter after suffering a gruesome leg injury ... San Francisco saw cornerback Tarell Brown (ribs) and guard Mike Iupati (knee) leave early.