NEW ORLEANS -- Much has been made of the up close and personal foul called against San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks with 3:12 remaining in Sunday night's game against the New Orleans Saints.
And rightfully so.
It was a pivotal point of the game for both teams.
But referee Tony Corrente got it right. Brooks clearly struck Saints quarterback Drew Brees in an unauthorized area of the body as he stood defenseless in the pocket, prompting the flag and negating a fumble recovery by 49ers inside linebacker Patrick Willis at the San Francisco 45-yard line.
The 49ers were nursing a 20-17 lead at the time and a turnover would have certainly moved them closer to victory.
Instead, the Saints cashed in on Brooks' penalty, tying the game at 20 on Garrett Hartley's 42-yard field goal with 2:11 left. Then, after forcing a San Francisco punt, Brees drove the Saints to the 49ers 13 where Hartley booted the game-winning 3-pointer from 31 yards out as time expired.
Mike Pereira, former NFL vice-president of officiating, confirmed Corrente's call on his Twitter account: "Clearly a foul in New Orleans -- that was a blow to the neck.''
Afterward, Brooks took umbrage with the call.
"It was b.s., man,'' he said. "It was a b.s. call to me. I didn't hit him with my helmet. I didn't hit him with my hand. I simply hit him with my chest and it caused a fumble and we recovered it.
"That was the game, basically.''
In a perfect world, Brooks should have hit Brees below the neck and head area instead of clothes-lining him as he did.
"I don't know what I could have done differently,'' Brooks said. "I'm going full speed, and at the last second he ducked his shoulder. I'm rushing around the edge, I'm turning the corner, I'm trying to get to him, and I'm trying to knock the ball out of his hands because I'm thinking he's going to throw the ball.
"I basically bear-hugged him ... kind of hard. But he lowered his shoulder.''
Brooks said he first noticed the flag, then he noticed blood trickling from Brees' lip.
"It's very frustrating,'' Brooks said. "The game could have gone in a totally different direction than it went. I'm just mad because that was a big play in the game. We lost the game and that's probably the reason why.
"They're trying to protect the players around the NFL as much as possible, but I think they protect the offense a little too much. We still get chopped in the defensive line. We still get cut blocked from the offensive linemen and the officials don't do anything about that. if you're going to protect everybody, then how 'bout they change the rules on chop blocks.''
I agree wholeheartedly with Brooks on that point. The league's competition committee needs to outlaw the chop block, the sooner, the better.
The 49ers squandered a great opportunity to perhaps salt away the game minutes earlier in the fourth quarter.
Facing a second-and-9 from their 21, quarterback Colin Kaepernick scrambled to his left to escape pressure and spotted running back Frank Gore wide open 10 yards down field in front of the 49ers bench. Kaepernick flipped the ball to Gore who had no defender within 30 yards of him down the left sideline.
But Gore dropped the pass, negating a potential big play with seven minutes remaining.
RYAN FOR THE DEFENSE
The Saints defense continues to impress under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan, holding its second consecutive opponent under 200 total yards. The 49ers were held to 196 yards Sunday, a week after the Saints limited the Dallas Cowboys to 193 yards. It is the first time since the start of the 2000 season that a Saints defense has held two consecutive opponents under 200 yards (Detroit/187, San Diego/188).
Though Saints officials have not released the extent of CB Jabari Greer's knee injury, he is not expected to return this season.
Saints officials reportedly will bring in CB Trevin Wade (5-10, 192), a seventh-round draft pick who spent the 2012 season with the Cleveland Browns and was cut in August. He played in 13 games last season and made 17 tackles and one pass breakup.
Second-year CB Corey White is expected to replace Greer in the base defense.
BY THE NUMBERS
12-3 -- In the Sean Payton era, the Saints hold this lopsided edge against Atlanta, including 1-1 last season when he had to serve a season-long suspension for his role in Bounty gate. Payton even shot a TV commercial this past offseason where he is shown wiping his mouth after feasting on an entree called "Roasted Falcon'' at a New Orleans restaurant.
35-8 -- The Falcons' record at the Georgia Dome under QB Matt Ryan, including 2-3 this season. Ryan's home/away TD-to-INT ratio reflects the team's 2-8 record. At home, Ryan has a 10-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. On the road where the Falcons are 0-5 including a 23-17 loss at New Orleans in Week 1, his TD-to-INT ratio is 8-to-11. Ryan signed a six-year, $113.75 million deal in July that includes $59 million guaranteed.
"People are telling me it was a terrible call. But I'm only saying it was an incorrect call.'' -- 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, a former assistant under Saints coach Jim Mora, on the personal foul against Brooks.
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