The 49ers 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints all but assured that San Francisco will be playing for no higher than a fifth seed the rest of the season. At 6-4, they are simply too far behind the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks to make up the ground they would need to with only six games remaining. The worst part of the loss was that, despite playing terribly on offense, the 49ers had multiple opportunities to win the game. Here is what 49ers fans are talking about after Week 11.

The call

Ahmad Brooks described it perfectly.

"I'm going full speed and he (Brees) is going full speed. And at the last second, he ducked his shoulder. So I don't think I could have done anything differently."

When you look at the view of the play referee Tony Corrente had, it appeared that all he could see was Drew Bress' head snap back. At full speed, and with Brooks engulfing the barely 6'0 quarterback, the hit probably looked a lot worse than it actually was. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, this is the way NFL games are officiated in this new era of player safety.

In reality, Brooks got more of Brees' shoulder than anything else and Corrente, who does have leeway in making this kind of call, threw a game changing flag that not only cost the 49ers the win, but most likely any chance at the NFC West.

The offense

Where to start? For the second week in a row, the 49ers failed to tally 200 total yards of offense. They ran for a season low 81 yards against a team whose rushing defense came into the game tied for last in the NFL with an average of 5.0 yards allowed per carry. Frank Gore, the team's offensive lynch pin, only carried the ball 13 times in what might have been the biggest game of the year to date.

Mistakes? There were almost too many to mention. The coaching staff challenged plays that didn't seem close, there were pass protection breakdowns, issues with the play clock (again), and an interception that should have been returned for a touchdown. Gore dropped a pass in the fourth quarter that was at worst a huge gain and may have even been a touchdown.

The truth of the matter is that the coaching staff looks just as lost as the quarterback. Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh have failed to make the proper adjustments in the passing game and the team has been unable to sustain any kind of a drive. This lack of production was a big reason why the Saints won the time of possession battle by over nine minutes.

In a league where the rules are tailored to help teams throw the ball, the 49ers have failed to break the 200 yard passing mark in eight of their last nine games. Taking away his 412 yards in Week 1, Kaepernick is averaging 154 yards passing and only completing 53 percent of his passes. Looking deeper, he's thrown for 150 yards or less in five of ten games this season. That's not just remedial, it's almost non-functional.

A lot has been made about the receivers not getting open and that argument does hold some merit. The bottom line though, is that Kaepernick is struggling to see the whole field and not giving his receivers opportunities to make plays in single coverage. He' still freezing in the pocket, making his offense line look worse than it actually is. Granted, the line has played spotty, but Kaepernick has not done a good job of getting rid of the ball or reading the defense pre-snap.

If not for two turnovers that gave the 49ers a short field, they probably would not have scored a touchdown for the second week in a row. It's difficult to see how this team can contend, or even make the playoffs, with an offense playing as badly as it is at the moment.

Defense did it's job

The Saints offense had been absolutely dominate in the Superdome. New Orleans came into Week 11 averaging 35 points per game at home and Brees had thrown 18 touchdown pass to only two interceptions. On Sunday, the 49ers kept them in check by holding Brees to one touchdown throw and the team to only 23 points. When you consider the Saints got one of their touchdowns on a drive that started on the San Francisco 21 yard line, the performance looks even better.

Kudos should go out to Ahmad Brooks who is playing at a pro bowl level this season. Coming off of a three sack performance in Week 10, Brooks had an interception that set up one of his team's touchdowns and his "could have been" sack and forced fumble would have sealed the victory for San Francisco.

How to lose a game in two plays

Without getting into the abysmal offensive performance at the end of the game, you can look at errors the 49ers made down the stretch that championship caliber teams shouldn't make. The first was on 3rd and 19 with 1:56 remaining. The Saints had one timeout left and Kaepernick was flushed out of the pocket. He took off an tried to run for the first down but came up short. Instead of staying in the field of play and taking more time off of the clock or forcing the Saints to use their last timeout, Kaepernick ran out of bounds preserving precious seconds. Kaepernick would later say he was trying to turn the corner to pick up the first down.

It would only get worse on the next play when Kassim Osgood was called for illegal contact (or actually tackling a returner who signaled for a fair catch). Osgood apparently didn't see the fair catch signal, but the penalty was inexcusable none the less. The Saints started the drive at their own 40 yards line and rest is history.

What's next?

Can the 49ers turn this around? They have the talent to do so, but issues within the offense run deep. There is a chance that Michael Crabtree could return to the lineup in time for the Week 12 matchup with the Redskins Monday night in Washington, but the receiver could be limited initially. With or without Crabtree, the final six weeks of the season will be critical in evaluating the offense and whether or not changes need to be made.