NEW ORLEANS – It was a bang-bang play. It also turned out to be a huge factor in San Francisco's 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Ahmad Brooks was flagged for a personal foul when he rushed around the right side of the Saints' offensive line and struck Drew Brees around the head and neck area. Brees fumbled the ball as he went down to the ground and the ball landed right in the arms of Joe Staley
"I'm going full speed, he's going full speed and at the last second he ducked his shoulder," Brooks said. "I don't know what I could have done differently."
The turnover that could have swung momentum and helped the 49ers ice the game, didn't count.
"I was thinking it was a good chance the game could be over," Willis said. "We would have still had to run some time off and get a first down.
"We talked about needing a turnover, needing a stop, and we were able to get it. Thought we were close to getting it. To give that type of quarterback a second chance with that type of offense, it's not good. They were able to capitalize on it, and they won, so credit goes to them."
Brooks felt like he hit New Orleans' prolific signal-caller in the chest, but it happened so fast, he couldn't really tell.
"I felt like I hit him with my chest," Brooks said. "Like I bear-hugged him… kind of hard."
The 49ers linebacker relayed his initial reaction to his head coach, too.
"Ahmad didn't think he hit him in the head," Jim Harbaugh said after the road loss which dropped his team to 6-4.
Brooks' penalty kept New Orleans' drive alive and they went on to tie the game at 20. After a San Francisco three-and-out with less than two minutes remaining, Brees led another scoring drive to set up a 31-yard Garrett Hartley field goal as time expired.
"That's Drew Brees," NaVorro Bowman said when he was asked to comment on the late-game turn-of-events. "You can only give him so many chances."
The 49ers allowed 9 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and lost a hard-fought contest that felt like a playoff game. New Orleans racked up a league-record 40 first downs last week, but only moved the chains 23 times in this game. They converted six of 14 third-downs, too.
The penalty on Brooks had a huge impact on the outcome.
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"It wouldn't have gone down like the way it did," said Brooks, who also intercepted Brees in the third quarter to set up a 49ers touchdown drive.
Brooks was in shock after the game. He felt like his play was clean.
"Very frustrated," he said, summing up his emotions. "This game could have gone in a totally different direction.
"I'm mad. We lost the game."