Programming note: Watch Monday’s 49ers press conference with head coach Jim Harbaugh on CSN Bay Area and streaming live online here at 12 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS – Was it or wasn’t it?
Ahmad Brooks’ potential key sack and forced fumble of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees could have been a huge play en route to a potential 49ers victory Sunday at the Superdome.
Instead, it provided the Saints with momentum to tie the game with two minutes remaining. And New Orleans capitalized on several additional 49ers’ mistakes for a 23-20 victory.
There are two areas of the NFL rulebook that apply to referee Tony Corrente’s controversial call. The first is covered in Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9, part (c).
In covering the passer position, Referees will be particularly alert to fouls in which defenders impermissibly use the helmet and/or facemask to hit the passer, or use hands, arms, or other parts of the body to hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area (see also the other unnecessary roughness rules covering these subjects).
And the unnecessary roughness section of the rulebook, Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 (a) (1) notes that a player in the act of or just throwing a pass is considered defenseless; therefore, in the (b) section, prohibited contact against a player in a defense posture includes:
(1) Forcibly hitting the defenseless player's head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact of the defender's helmet or facemask is lower than the passer's neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him.
While Brooks’ initial contact with Brees appeared to be at the shoulders, replays indicate Brooks’ right biceps did come in contact with Brees’ neck area. Corrente made a split-second judgment call that appeared to be consistent with how the rule is written.
However, that brings into question the rule itself, and whether the NFL goes too far to protect offensive players.
“(They) try to protect all the players around the NFL as much as possible, but I just think they protect the offensive players a little too much,” Brooks said. “The defensive line, we still get chopped. We still get cut-blocked from the offensive linemen. And they don’t do anything about that. If you’re going to protect everybody, then how about you change the rules on chop blocks?”
Brooks intimated that Corrente could have been influenced by the venue and the fact that his hit was on Brees, a seven-time Pro Bowl player and one of the most popular players in the sport.
“I didn’t hit him with my hand or my helmet,” Brooks said in comments to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I basically bear-hugged him. That’s just how football is played. I think this s— is b——-.
“Football, the way they call stuff these days, it’s watered down. It ain’t real no more. … “It was at home. It was Drew Brees. And maybe the officials were for the New Orleans Saints a little bit more than the 49ers. I think it’s B.S., man.”