Ahmad Brooks: NFL 'watered down'

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was fuming Sunday after he was called for a roughing the passer penalty that negated a Drew Brees fumble that could have sealed a victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Brooks burst into the backfield and leveled Brees with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Patrick Willis. If the play had stood, the 49ers, up 20-17 at the time, might have been able to run out the clock.

Brooks was flagged for hitting Brees in the head and neck on a violent sack that left Brees with blood on his chin. The Saints capitalized on Brooks' penalty with a tying 42-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley, then won 23-20 on a 31-yarder by Hartley as time expired.

"I didn't hit him with my hand or my helmet," Brooks told reporters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "I basically bear-hugged him. That's just how football is played. I think this s--- is bull----. Football, the way they call stuff these days, it's watered down. It ain't real no more."

Brees, on the other hand, believes the call was correct.

"All I remember is just getting clothes-lined in the chin, and as I'm on the ground I'm saying, 'That's got to be a flag,''' Brees said.

"One of my teammates kind of picked me up and said, 'Are you all right?' And he said, 'Don't worry, there's a flag.' I said, 'All right, good.'''

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that he thought Brooks' hit was legal.

"When we grade a player, if he has a penalty, we give him a minus," Harbaugh said, according to the team's website. "We did not assign a minus on that play. Thought he made a great play, just didn't get the result."

On Sunday, Brooks even suggested the officials made the call because the Saints were playing 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," he said, according to the Chronicle.

No Super Bowl loser has returned to the Super Bowl the following year since the Buffalo Bills in 1993, and the 49ers (6-4) have put themselves in a tough position, falling 3½ games behind the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks (10-1).

"It was very frustrating. The game could have gone a totally different direction than what it went," Brooks said. "I was just mad because that was a big play in the game. We lost, and that's probably the reason why."

While he was protesting the penalty called on him, Brooks took the opportunity to campaign for the NFL to protect defensive players, as well.

"They're trying to protect the players around the NFL as much as possible, but I think they protect the offensive players a little too much," he told reporters. "We still get chopped in the defensive line. 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 they change the rules on [the] chop block?''

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.