Ahmad Brooks tackling Drew Brees.
Let me make this loud and clear so it will really sink in: The 49ers are now TIED IN THE STANDINGS WITH THE ARIZONA CARDINALS.
Makes me sick just typing it.
I have endless complaints about Sunday's game, and none of them have to do with the "controversial" call that overturned the fumble and allowed the Saints to tie the game (You're trying to tell me a running clothesline of a premier quarterback at said quarterback's home field isn't going to be flagged by referees who are tasked with making the game as contact-free as high school dances? Please.)
What was the most detrimental mistake in the loss? Was it Jim Harbaugh's refusal to listen to his staff when deciding whether or not to risk a timeout on a challenge? Colin Kaepernick's inability to make good decisions in pivotal situations again? The absolutely horrendous play-calling by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman?
Answer: all of the above.
Any defense that can hold Drew Brees to two touchdowns at home has done a fine job. They're off the hook. The referees—who, by the way, kept the Niners in the game early with several confusing calls in their favor—did a fine job of being pretty terrible to both teams. And the football gods who used to bask the Niners in rays of sunshine tried their hardest to give Kaepernick a miracle when a near pick-six turned into a touchback and a second chance.
Basically, the Niners had no business being in a position to win that game. Yet, with two minutes left, there they were.
There was Kaepernick, scrambling out of bounds on third-and-long instead of staying in to either cost the Saints their final timeout or let 40 more seconds tick off the clock. There was the usually reliable Kasim Osgood, who recovered a muffed punt earlier in the game to help the 49ers get points on the board, making an absurdly stupid tackle on Darren Sproles' fair catch and allowing the Saints to start 15 yards closer to pay dirt than they should have.
There was coach Harbaugh, watching as Saints kicker Garrett Hartley lined up for a chip shot field goal attempt with three seconds left. There was Harbaugh, looking as constipated as usual, not icing Hartley with the final timeout, maybe forgetting that the one timeout survived his team's famously bad clock management.
And there were the Saints, celebrating a big win and their 8-2 record and no-doubt playoff-bound future. And there was Kaepernick, and Harbaugh, and Roman and the rest of the team staring in astonishment at their losing their fourth game to a playoff team in as many tries, effectively pushing them to the bubble of the NFC playoff picture.
Yeah, you read that right. The 49ers are now in a logjam with five other teams with six wins each in the NFC. Only four are getting into the playoffs.
Let's just hope the Niners are one of them. Or should they just spare us the pain of a first-round exit? At least we'll be able to watch old friend Alex Smith lead his 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs and a potential Super Bowl.
Let's be honest—we kind of deserve that punishment.