Rapid Reaction: Saints 31, 49ers 17

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Maybe Sean Payton was bluffing or maybe he was trying to borrow some time for the healing process.

It doesn't really matter now. Deuce McAllister assured he won't be a question anymore. With a 20-carry performance against the 49ers, the veteran running back gave the injury-riddled Saints their best news of the season.

Kept on the sidelines for almost all of the first three games of the season, McAllister showed he's got something left in his surgically-repaired knees. He scored a touchdown and gave the Saints the consistency they'd been missing in the short-yardage game.

That's huge for a team that's still going to be without receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey for the foreseeable future. Quarterback Drew Brees has shown he can complete passes to anyone (and that now includes receiver Robert Meachem). But the Saints had lost two in a row largely because the offense couldn't keep an equally-battered defense off the field.

That all changed Sunday with McAllister's strong showing. He's not going to just disappear again. He's back in as a staple in a New Orleans offense that suddenly looks a lot better and more balanced than it was at the start of the day.