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San Francisco’s interceptions came during a 21-0 spurt that turned a 14-7 deficit into a 28-14 lead.

“You give them two free ones and that’s what they thrive on,” Brees said. “All of a sudden they rattle off 21 points in a short amount of time and we really felt like we had the game under control.”

Brooks snagged the first, returning it 50 yards late in the first half to tie the game at 14.

The second came on Brees‘ first pass of the second half. The ball deflected off Colston’s hands as the leaping receiver was upended and briefly shaken up. Whitner snagged the deflected pass and returned it 42 yards to make it 28-14.

Since losing to the New York Giants on Oct. 14, the Niners are 5-0-1 and hold a 2 1/2-game lead in the NFC West.

It seems their biggest problem at this point is deciding who should be their No. 1 QB. Smith, who led the Niners to the NFC title game last season, started the first nine games.

“That would be coach’s decision,” Kaepernick said. “I’m just trying to take a similar approach that I’ve been taking, just keep my head down, keep working and see where it takes me.”

The Saints, meanwhile, missed a chance to pull into a tie for the last NFC wild card berth, and remain a game out with another tough game coming up at Atlanta on Thursday night.

Kaepernick gave the Niners the early lead, scoring easily on a read-option run that fooled the Saints’ defense.

New Orleans tied it on tight end David Thomas’ 6-yard catch, then took the lead on Colston’s TD, capping a drive that began when Ted Ginn Jr.’s fumbled punt was recovered by Rafael Bush on the 49ers 10.

New Orleans was looking to go up by two scores after Kaepernick’s interception on an underthrown pass that cornerback Patrick Robinson easily caught. Instead, Brooks tied it, stepping in front of a pass for Jimmy Graham.

NOTES: Saints DT Brodrick Bunkley was thrown out for unsportsmanlike conduct with 1:05 left for kicking lineman Alex Boone in the back of the helmet right after the Saints had blocked a field goal … Aldon Smith’s sack of Brees in the third quarter was his 16th this season, 30th in his career. He became only the second player to reach 30 sacks in his first two seasons, joining Reggie White (31) and Derrick Thomas (30). He reached it in fewer games (27) than either of them. … Niners WR Kyle Williams and RB Kendall Hunter both were shaken up on the same play in the second half with apparent leg injuries. … Saints S Isa Abdul-Quddus left the game after a hard collision with tight end Delanie Walker in the fourth quarter.