New Orleans continued winning and San Francisco continued losing.
Drew Brees threw three touchdowns and the Saints (4-4) had their highest rushing total in coach Sean Payton's 11 seasons as they beat the 49ers 41-23 Sunday afternoon at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., for their fourth win in five games.
Colin Kaepernick passed for 398 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw an interception and lost a fumble as San Francisco (1-7) committed four turnovers and lost its seventh game in a row.
Ingram, benched during a victory against Seattle last week after losing a fumble for the second consecutive week, ran for 158 yards on 15 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown run, to lead a 248-yard effort as New Orleans outgained San Francisco 571-486.
"It was fantastic (to see Ingram bounce back)," Payton said. "He did a really good job. The guys up front played really well."
Phil Dawson's third field goal of the game, a 46-yarder, cut the Saints' 11-point halftime lead to 31-23 early in the third quarter, but the Niners didn't score again.
"I think we got into more of a rhythm today," said Kaepernick, who made his third start since replacing Blaine Gabbert. "We still left a lot out there, particularly in the red zone. We went down there three times and came away with zero points.
"I get more and more comfortable every week. This is my first opportunity to get live reps, so being a few games in now, everything is more and more clear, more and more comfortable, and I'm able to get in a rhythm with this offense."
After New Orleans didn't score in the third quarter, Brees' 32-yard touchdown pass to Thomas and rookie Wil Lutz's 41-yard field goal completed the scoring midway through the fourth quarter.
"(Thomas) keeps improving," Payton said of the second-round draft choice from Ohio State. "He's very conscientious."
Dawson made a 49-yard field goal to give San Francisco an early 3-0 lead, then Brees and the Saints' offense went to work.
Tim Hightower, making his first start of the season after rushing for 102 yards in relief of Ingram a week earlier, ran 4 yards for a touchdown. Hightower finished with 87 yards on 23 carries.
Brian Robertson intercepted Kaepernick, who completed 24-of-39, leading to Brees' 1-yard touchdown pass to Thomas to give New Orleans a 14-3 lead after one quarter.
The Saints added another score when Brees threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ingram, but less than two minutes later Kaepernick threw a swing pass to DuJuan Harris, who turned it into a 47-yard touchdown. Harris finished with 142 yards of total offense. His touchdown left New Orleans with a 21-10 lead with 5:56 left in the first half.
On the next play from scrimmage, Ingram ran a career-long 75 yards for a touchdown. Dawson made a 48-yard field goal and Kaepernick threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vance McDonald before Lutz kicked a 26-yard field goal, leaving New Orleans with a 31-20 halftime lead.
"You have to keep working and keep trying to be better every week because complaining about it, worrying about it, all those things, aren't going to help you correct it," Kaepernick said. "And, ultimately, that's what we have to do, is correct things offensively, defensively and special teams. As a team, we have to correct our mistakes so we can start winning football games."
The Saints have started winning after an 0-3 start. This is the fourth time in 10 seasons that they have started 1-3 or worse and rebounded to reach .500, but in none of the other seasons did they reach the playoffs.
"We've been here before," New Orleans tackle Zach Strief said, "but the difference is this team has a lot more energy than teams past."
NOTES: Two key Saints players returned from broken legs as CB Delvin Breaux and rookie first-round DL Sheldon Rankins played Sunday. Rankins had been sidelined since training camp and Breaux got hurt in the season opener against Oakland. ... The Niners failed on a scoring opportunity early in the second quarter when Harris was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans 29. Later in the quarter Harris caught the first touchdown pass of his career. ... Saints LT Terron Armstead left in the first half because of a left leg injury and did not return.