49ers’ Harbaugh denies honking his horn

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It won’t rank up there with famous denials like, “I am not a crook” or “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

But Jim Harbaugh on Monday said he definitely did not honk his car horn and mock the Seahawks’ team bus earlier this year.

After Sunday’s game in Seattle, two Seahawks players told Yahoo! Sports that the 49ers’ head coach performed a drive-by of sorts in the Candlestick Park parking lot after the 49ers had beaten Seattle, 13-6, on Oct. 18. The two players were safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford. Sherman said he did not witness the event.

“He honked his horn at the bus and waved,” Sherman told the publication. “That happened — a bunch of the guys told me. Yeah, he was (honking).”

Harbaugh called it a “fabrication.”

Asked if he would be in his car at that time, he said, “I can’t think of a time when I’ve left the game and the other team’s still been there this entire season.”

That was as specific as Harbaugh got Monday, one day after experiencing his worst defeat since entering the NFL. The 29-point loss to Sherman and Seahawks was six more than an earlier-season rout at home by the defending champion New York Giants.

Harbaugh kept his answers clipped and vague during a grim, eight-minute news conference. For instance, what do the 49ers need to do to avoid calling timeouts and being hit with delay-of-game penalties on offense?

“Fix it,” he said.

Sunday’s loss fits a 2012 pattern for the 49ers in which they win two games then drop — or tie — the third. Moreover, the losses usually have followed a momentous, prime-time victory such as team’s Week 15 win in New England against the Patriots.

Harbaugh has said that the team hasn’t prepared differently before any of the games this season and that he hasn’t noticed a slip ion focus following any of their big wins.

The 49ers also have a pattern of bouncing back, winning the game that follows a non-win by a combined score of 106-26.

A victory in Sunday’s finale against the Cardinals would give the 49ers their second-consecutive division title. They also have a chance of reclaiming the No. 2 seed — and a first-round bye in the playoffs — with a win and a Packers loss in Minnesota.

As was the case in the 26-3 loss to the Giants this year, the 49ers on Sunday were beaten at their own game — by a physical and fast defense and by a punishing ground attack. Seattle ran for 176 yards, the most the 49ers allowed this season.

Still, the defeat did not seem to diminish the 49ers sense that they are a special team and one that expects to go deep into the playoffs.

Said Patrick Willis, one of the team leaders, in the locker room Sunday: “Any great competitor, whether it’s a boxer, basketball player, basketball team, football team, you’re going to have times like this. You have to have the lowest low to be able to enjoy the highs.”

Said left tackle Joe Staley: “We talk about putting to bed a win quickly.

And you can put to bed a loss the same way.”

Notes

Asked if Justin Smith, who missed Sunday’s game with an elbow/arm injury, would need surgery in the offseason, Harbaugh said, “We’ll see.” He said receiver Mario Manningham would have an MRI today on his knee. Manningham was seen leaving the team facility on crutches.

The 49ers released former Washington State linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who played for the Sacramento Mountain Lions this year, from their practice squad. After promoting Cam Johnson to the active roster last week, the 49ers have two openings on the practice squad.

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