NEW ORLEANS -- Even after another win by whiz kid Colin Kaepernick, coach Jim Harbaugh remained noncommittal Sunday about whether Kaepernick has officially replaced Alex Smith as the 49ers' starting quarterback.
Both want the job. But Kaepernick clearly has seized an opportunity that arose Nov. 11 when Smith suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams.
"Colin played well and, in a tough environment, he acquitted himself very well," said Harbaugh, adding that he'll wait until "a later date" to name his starter for next Sunday's game at St. Louis.
In the 31-21 win against the New Orleans Saints, Smith suited up as what he called "the No. 2" and helped review game snapshots on the sideline. As a captain, Smith also participated in the pregame coin toss.
"Obviously I want to play, I want to start," Smith said. "I think I should. It's not my decision."
Asked if he expected to start at St. Louis, Smith crisply replied: "We'll see. I don't expect anything."
Kaepernick's take: "That would be the coach's decision."
In winning his second straight start, Kaepernick was 16 of 25 for 231 yards with a touchdown pass and a first-career interception. His first-quarter touchdown run gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead, and it marked his fourth rushing touchdown this season, one off Frank Gore's team lead.
"It was a great read by the coaches, and the guys made the blocks in front of me," Kaepernick said. "All I had to do was run it
Kaepernick's laserlike throws really shined through on the 49ers' final scoring drive. He daringly stood in his own end zone before unleashing a 15-yard completion to Michael Crabtree, and Kaepernick later converted all three of his third-down passes on that series.
In his encore after a Nov. 19 starting debut against the Chicago Bears, Kaepernick completed his first four passes for 82 yards. Receivers dropped his next three passes, including a hard throw into tight end Vernon Davis' chest.
"The velocity of the ball is so much different than Alex's, so you've got to get your head around faster," Davis said.
Harbaugh announced at a team meeting Saturday night that Kaepernick would start ahead of Smith, who was medically cleared earlier in the day from the concussion that sidelined him against the Bears.
"It's tough because I feel bad for Alex," safety Donte Whitner said. "But Coach says he'll go with the hot hand, and we've got two starting quarterbacks."
How Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith have fared during the 2012 season:
74 Attempts 217
48 Completions 152
680 Yards 1,731
64.9 Pct. 70.0
3 Touchdowns 13
1 Interceptions 5
31 Attempts 29
214 Yards 134
4 Touchdowns 0