SANTA CLARA (AP) — Jim Harbaugh still believes Ahmad Brooks made a clean hit on Drew Brees and should have been credited with a 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 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 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 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. If you lose, you want to come back and make sure that darn near never happens again. ... The mindset is, you don’t win the game you’re not going to feel great, and you don’t feel good. I know that as a coach. And if you want to feel better, coach better. That’s what I tell myself.”
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.”
For now, all involved are calling on one another to do more to finish the regular season strong with playoff positioning — or even a spot in the playoffs — on the line. The 49ers have managed a combined 347 yards during their two recent losses, while quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been sacked nine times during those two games.
“At the end of the day it’s just one loss and we’ve got six weeks to keep playing for,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “We know the ultimate goal is to win as many games as you can and get into the playoffs.”
After beginning this season poised to chase a third straight NFC West crown, the four losses are somewhat of a surprise.
“I think we are (surprised) but we still have six more to go,” Kaepernick said. “And we can still finish this season 12-4.”
Notes: The 49ers signed CB Dax Swanson to the practice squad. ... Harbaugh had no medical updates on LG Mike Iupati (left knee) or CB Tarell Brown (rib contusion). ... Players were given off until Wednesday with the next game not until Monday.