SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh still believes Ahmad Brooks made a clean hit on Drew Brees and should have been credited with a potentially game-clinching fumble.
Instead, Brooks was flagged for a personal foul on the Saints quarterback in the waning minutes Sunday and the 49ers watched Garrett Hartley kick a pair of late field goals to lift New Orleans over the reigning NFC champions 23-20.
Another heartbreaking three-point loss in the Superdome. Back in February, it was a 34-31 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.
“Our interpretation was, when we grade a player, if he's got a penalty we give him a minus, but we did not assign a minus on that play,” Harbaugh said Monday. “The play occurred that occurred. I thought Ahmad hit at the right level, hit at the shoulder level. The quarterback kind of shrunk down and that's the official's call to make. I'm going to see it the way I see it and that's going to be a slanted view. I really don't know much more to say about that.”
The 49ers (6-4) are suddenly dealing with their second two-game skid of the season. The Niners also lost back-to-back games in Weeks 2 and 3, at Seattle and at home to the Indianapolis Colts.
San Francisco didn't lose consecutive games in Harbaugh's initial two years as coach.
Brooks said after the game that that play was likely the difference in the 49ers leaving the Big Easy with a loss.
“It's very frustrating. The game could have gone in a totally different direction,” he said. “And I'm mad because that was a big call in the game, and then we lost the game, and that's probably the reason why.”
Next up is a game at Washington on Monday night. Everybody realizes what is at stake at this stage with December looming, and three division games still remaining, including the first-place Seahawks' visit to Candlestick Park on Dec. 8.