San Francisco loses thanks to a questionable roughing the passer penalty

If you are a 49ers player, coach, executive or fan, anger is a reasonable feeling after their 23-20 loss to the Saints.

San Francisco probably needed to beat New Orleans to remain alive to win the NFC West, and the 49ers played very well. They led 20-17 late in the fourth quarter. And when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked Drew Brees, forcing a fumble that Patrick Willis recovered with 3:12 left, it looked like the game was over.

But it's almost impossible to hit the quarterback anymore without drawing a penalty.

Brooks drilled Brees, who never saw Brooks coming. Brooks' right arm hit Brees in the upper chest, with his upper arm on Brees' neck. It was a sack. Brooks couldn't have really hit Brees anywhere else (remember, Brees is pretty short for a quarterback). It was a great play. But the flag came, because the flag always comes these days.

The Saints got possession back on the roughing the passer call, took the 15 yards and got a game-tying field goal. The New Orleans defense got a stop, and the Saints marched down for the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Although Brooks' hit looked clean, former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said the call was legit.

Pereira obviously knows the rules and has an uncanny accuracy rate on plays like that, but that didn't seem like a penalty. And if it is a penalty by the letter of the law, it really means that defenders shouldn't try to hit the quarterback anymore. There's no place to hit the quarterback anymore without drawing a penalty.

So feel free to be upset, San Francisco. Actually, if you're an NFL fan outside of New Orleans, you might want to be a little peeved. The 49ers were robbed.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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