A day after the San Francisco 49ers lost to the New Orleans Saints, 23-20, head coach Jim Harbaugh expressed his frustration with the penalty called on outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. The refs called a personal-foul on Brooks after he laid out a jarring hit on Drew Brees, (picture above) who fumbled the football that was recovered by inside linebacker Patrick Willis. The turnover was waived off because of the penalty and the Saints were given a new set of downs.
The penalty was called with more than three minutes left in the game and the 49ers up, 20-17. After the sack and fumble recovery by San Francisco, Niner fans thought our team was close to wrapping up a huge road win. Instead of first-down and possession for the 49ers, the Saints were awarded first-down and another chance to tie the game, which they did.
Brooks was flagged for roughing the passer. The refs took issue with the outside linebacker wrapping his right arm around Brees’ neck as he collided with the QB. The rule says a defensive player cannot make contact with the head or neck area of a quarterback. After the call, Harbaugh made his opinions on the penalty known with an animated protest on the sidelines to the refs. At his press conference on Monday, he was less lively after reviewing the video, but he still disagreed with the call:
Our interpretation is we give a player a ‘minus’ on a penalty. And we didn’t give Brooks a minus on this one. I think he made a great play and didn’t get the result.
Ahmad made the hit at the right level, at shoulder level, but the quarterback kind of shrunk. That’s the official’s call to make. I’m going to see it the way I see it, and that’s a slanted view.
Brooks also criticized the call after the game. He said football is now “watered down” and “ain’t real.” He also took issue with how officials closely protect quarterbacks. But it should be pointed out that Colin Kaepernick receives this same protection from the referees.
There is no use complaining about the penalty because it glosses over the fact that the 49ers offense was the main culprit for the loss against the Saints. Sure, the Niners defense gave up three straight drives in the fourth quarter to the Saints that resulted in nine points and a win. But the lack of an offense being generated in the final 15 minutes by Kaepernick and company forced the defense back on the field with limited rest on the sidelines. The lack of offense is the reason why the 49ers have four losses and are tied with the Arizona Cardinals for second-place in the NFC West. Not the penalty called on Brooks.
Even if Brooks’ personal-foul was not called and the 49ers were given possession, there was no reason to believe Kaepernick would’ve led the offense down the field for a score or have been successful running out the clock. After the Saints tied up the game, 20-20, with just over two minutes remaining, Kaepernick led the 49ers offense to their second straight three-and-out of the quarter. All told, the 49ers had negative-seven yards of offense in the final frame.
Penalty or no penalty called on Brooks, the 49ers still had opportunities to win the game, but failed. Even with the game on the line, Kaepernick could not lead his offense down the field on San Francisco’s final possession to give Phil Dawson a chance to kick for the win.