- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 23-20 loss at New Orleans:
Costly penalties: The 49ers committed two colossal penalties in the final few minutes that turned a 20-17 lead into a loss. First, there was some controversy. The 49ers appeared to get the ball on a turnover with about three minutes to go. But linebacker Ahmad Brooks was called for a personal foul for a hit to Drew Brees' neck that gave the Saints new life. It was a questionable call because it appeared Brooks hit Brees' shoulder more than the neck. New Orleans ended the drive with a game-tying field goal with 2:06 to go. After the 49ers went three-and-out on the ensuing series, San Francisco special teams ace Kassim Osgood blew into New Orleans punt returner Darren Sproles, who had called for a fair catch at the Saints’ 25. Osgood was called for a 15-yard penalty with 1:48 to go. It gave the Saints good field position and led to the winning field goal. The 49ers complained about the call on Brooks, but it was close and a superstar quarterback like Brees is going to get that call at home.
Slow offensive start: The 49ers had just 18 yards of offense in the first quarter. They had 45 yards in the second half of a loss to Carolina last week. The 49ers didn’t get their first first down at New Orleans until the second quarter. The 49ers did make some progress as the game went on, but they had five three-and-outs, including one on their final drive of the game.
Bad challenges: It wasn’t the smoothest game for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. He swung and missed on two first-half challenges. The Saints ended up scoring a touchdown on the San Francisco defense when Harbaugh had his first unsuccessful challenge. His other failed challenge didn’t matter. The 49ers scored a touchdown on the next play.
Injuries mount: The 49ers have dealt with a lot of injuries this season, and Sunday was no different. Guard Mike Iupati had to be carted to the locker room with a left knee injury. He left the stadium on crutches and had a brace on his knee. Adam Snyder took his place. Starting cornerback Tarell Brown had a rib injury. The 49ers are deep at cornerback, so if both players are out for an extended time, Iupati’s loss might hurt the team more.