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 20-17.
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 49ers (6-4) are suddenly dealing with their second two-game skid of the season after San Francisco never lost consecutive games in Harbaugh’s initial two years as coach. The Niners also lost back-to-back games in Weeks 2 and 3, at Seattle and at home to the Indianapolis Colts.
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 Football.” Everybody realizes what is at stake at this stage with December looming, and three division games still remaining — namely, the first-place Seahawks’ visit to Candlestick Park on Dec. 8.
Harbaugh challenged himself to do a better job.
“I’m attacking the day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Win or lose, that’s the approach,” he said. “Win, come back and make sure that you can contribute anything you can to the winning.”
An offense that scored 31 or more points in each victory of a five-game winning streak before a home loss to Carolina on Nov. 10 has been inconsistent since. While Harbaugh referenced getting some new faces up to speed, he wouldn’t say whether 2012 leading wide receiver Michael Crabtree might be ready to face the Redskins. He returned to practice Nov. 5 for the first time since tearing his right Achilles tendon in May and undergoing surgery. The 49ers have until Nov. 26 to activate him.
“We’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s close.”