Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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METAIRIE, La. ― Drew Brees has never had a tougher postseason loss to get over than the Saints' 36-32 fall to San Francisco.

And that includes the NFC championship game defeat at Chicago in January 2007.

'It definitely it is,' Brees said. 'And maybe it gets harder as you get older just because you don't know how many opportunities you're going to have. We like to believe that it will last forever, but obviously it doesn't.

'And so when you put a group together that we had, the type of team we had, which I felt really in all phases was right there and ready to make a run, it just goes to show you just how difficult this game is, especially when you get in the playoffs.'

A year ago, New Orleans' season came to an end in Seattle, a shocking 41-36 setback in the wild-card round.

But few likely believed the Saints had another championship run in them with all the injuries the team had heading into the postseason.

This year, however, New Orleans was as healthy as any team and in the wild-card round, New Orleans blasted a high-powered Lions teams 45-28.

The Saints were a postseason favorite heading in, picked by Sports Illustrated's Pete King to win the Super Bowl. They were even favored to win at Candlestick Park over the 49ers despite San Francisco's high seeding.

Mistakes, though, cost them dearly and in the end, the defense couldn't hold up.

'It's just one play here, one play there that typically determine the outcome of a playoff game,' Brees said. 'Still here we are only less than a week removed and it still hurts.'

Making it even harder is that the roster won't remain intact in its current incarnation.

Receiver Marques Colston, left guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Tracy Porter headline a crop of free agents who could wind up playing elsewhere in 2012.

'I felt like we just had so many guys that are kind of right in the prime of their career or entering the prime of their career,' Brees said. 'So you just felt like we were in prime position to make another run at it.'

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