San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ Brooks, Saints’ Brees downplay last year’s controversial encounter

The 49ers head back to the scene of this controversial call, which happened in Week 11 of the 2013 season.
The 49ers head back to the scene of this controversial call, which happened in Week 11 of the 2013 season. AP

Nearly a year later, Drew Brees alternately sloughs it off or jokes about the jolt that left him with a bloody chin but a fresh set of downs.

“I haven’t thought about it for about 360 days,” the Saints quarterback said this week.

But the 49ers haven’t quite forgotten. They still maintain the hit, which dislodged the ball from Brees but also drew a 15-yard penalty late in last year’s game in New Orleans, was legal. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio played it for the 49ers’ defense in the run-up to Sunday’s rematch at the Superdome.

“And everybody was like, ‘Yeah, that’s how you hit a guy,’” said linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who delivered the controversial blow. “But that was last year.”

San Francisco was ahead by three points when Brooks came around the right side of the Saints’ offensive line, slammed into Brees and caused a fumble the 49ers recovered with a little more than three minutes remaining.

But officials flagged Brooks for unnecessary roughness, which allowed the Saints to retain possession. They went on to tie the score on that drive and then won it with a field goal as time expired.

If that loss had been a win for the 49ers, they would have had home-field advantage in the playoffs instead of the Seahawks. The NFC Championship Game? It might have been played in San Francisco instead of in Seattle.

After the Nov. 17, 2013, game, Brees told reporters that “it felt like I got my head ripped off” and that he got to his feet with “a mouth full of blood.”

Earlier this week, however, he said the wallop doesn’t register among the biggest he’s absorbed in his 14 seasons.

“I don’t think he hit me as hard as he could have,” Brees said. “He kind of caught me just right. My momentum was kind of going that way a little bit.”

Brooks initially was fined nearly $16,000 for the hit, but he won his appeal. He said Friday he’s not thinking about the play and that the 49ers aren’t using it as motivation for Sunday’s game.

“Not at all, man,” he said. “That was last year and we’re on a new year. We’re 4-4 right now and that’s where our focus is.”

Readying the rookie – Center Marcus Martin says he’s played in some loud college venues, with games at Oregon and Notre Dame standing out. But the USC product never has played in a dome.

How will the 49ers get the rookie ready for Sunday’s game in New Orleans in what is considered the loudest dome in the NFL?

“Really just try to create the environment with the (practice) noise,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “And then, with what you’re doing during the game, you can maybe create some leverage advantages. You can work silent count if that’s what you do. Non-verbal communication, that is one way to do it as well.”

Roman and the other offensive linemen gave Martin good marks for his first NFL start Sunday against the Rams. There were three bad exchanges with Colin Kaepernick – including a critical one at the goal line late – but the quarterback said the center wasn’t the problem.

“Last one was my fault, but Marcus did a great job,” Kaepernick said. “Didn’t have a problem with the snaps all day.”

Injuries – Linebacker Patrick Willis missed the team’s third and final practice of the week. He is listed as questionable, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he will would be doubtful if he didn’t practice. Chris Borland will start in his place.

Dan Skuta (ankle) also has not practiced this week and, like Willis, he is questionable for Sunday. If Skuta can’t play, the team’s outside linebackers will be Brooks, Aaron Lynch and Corey Lemonier. The 49ers also could elevate Chase Thomas from the practice squad.

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