49ers botch their big chances in loss to Seattle

The 49ers had their chances. They had all kinds of chances. And they botched them.


“Today we just found a way to screw it up,” 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. “It’s as simple as that. Every situation, we just found a way to screw it up. Championship teams can’t do that. Teams that talk about going to the playoffs cannot do that. We did.”


The 49ers were hoping to be playing for the NFC West division lead next Monday at Candlestick Park against the Cardinals. That will not happen now. The 49ers completely bungled their big chances on Sunday, losing 20-17 loss to the Seahawks.


Don’t look now, but Seattle (5-7) has the same record as the 49ers. They are in a tie for second place in the division. The 49ers have four games remaining.


“For me, we’re going to come out next Monday night, and we’re going to rock,” Singletary said. “We’re to fight, we’re going to hit, we’re going to scratch, and hopefully win the game. That’s our thought process — can’t look at it any other way. We got ourselves in this silly hole, and we just have to fight to get out of it.


This game was a disaster in just about every area. The 49ers were so disorganized after the opening kickoff that they had to burn a timeout to get their defense on the field. When has that ever happened? A timeout six seconds into the game? Unreal.


They used all three timeouts with 6:26 left in the first quarter.


And Singletary was none too pleased with referee Alberto Riveron and his crew. There appeared to be an obvious pass-interference call on a fourth-down throw to Delanie Walker in the end zone that went uncalled. There was another pass to Michael Crabtree in which it appeared he was being tackled before the ball arrived.


And when I asked about newcomer Keith Smith being in the game for the crucial 32-yard pass late in regulation in which he was beaten by Deon Butler, Singletary pointed out he thought the officials blew that one too.


“The guy that pushed off on by No. 11? The guy that got pushed?” Singletary responded when I asked about Smith.


Did Singletary have a good view of the play?


“Yes, I had a good view of it,” he answered.


And, indeed there were some questionable calls.


“Yes, there was,” Singletary said. “I could go there, but I’m not because the referees did not fumble. The referees didn’t miss tackles. So I’m not going to go there. That really wasn’t the game because I thought we could’ve overcome some of the calls.”


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Smith was signed several weeks ago after Nate Clements’ injury. Marcus Hudson sat out today’s game with a back injury, making Smith the 49ers’ seventh defensive back. He was very emotional after the game.


“It’s just a play I knew I needed to make, and it didn’t go that way,” Smith said. “At that time in the game when a play comes your way, you have to make it.”


The Matt Hasselbeck-to-Butler play set up Olindo Mare’s game-winning 30-yard field goal as time expired to win the game for the Seahawks.


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Brandon Jones took full responsibility for the fumbled handoff on a punt return that proved to be a turning point in the game. Arnaz Battle made the catch of the punt and stumbled to throw off the timing of the play, Jones fumbled the exchange and could not recover the ball. That gave the Seahawks the ball at the SF 13-yard line. Three plays later, Hasselbeck hit Deion Branch for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.


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Alex Smith threw for a career-best 310 yards. He put together would could’ve easily had been the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. But he didn’t get a lot of help from his friends. Tight end Vernon Davis, who caught a 33-yard touchdown in the first quarter, dropped several passes in the game. He failed to make the grab of a well-thrown pass in the end zone with three minutes remaining.


“He just has to continue to work at it,” Singletary said. “It’s as simple as that. No one feels as bad about it as he does.”


“(I) couldn’t see it,” Davis said. “I saw it at the last minute. (I) didn’t know where he (Smith) was throwing it to. I wish I could’ve looked a little earlier and saw the ball and I could’ve made the play. But things happen.”


Smith said he thought he threw that pass on time and said it would’ve been “a great play.” On the next play, Smith was forced to throw early to Michael Crabtree on a post pattern. The play was designed for the back of the end zone. When Crabtree turned at the front of the end zone, the ball was already on him.


“He didn’t have time to throw the route I was running,” Crabtree said.


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Frank Gore had just nine carries for 25 yards. He also had a critical fumble when the 49ers were driving in the fourth quarter.


Seattle coach Jim Mora acted as if he were pleased the 49ers did not feed the ball to Gore more often.


“Interestingly enough, they didn’t attempt to run the ball,” Mora said. “I think they only had four rushing attempts in the first half – four for 14 yards, to be exact, in the first half. It wasn’t a whole lot different in the second half.


“I’m not really concerned about their strategy, their philosophy. I’m just glad that he didn’t have the ball more because the guy’s an outstanding football player.”


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Mora had some nice things to say about Smith, who completed 27 of 45 passes for 310 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (passer rating of 95.6). Smith, obviously, could’ve had much better stats if it weren’t for a handful of drops from his receivers.


“The development of Alex Smith, I think it’s evident,” Mora said. “It’s not smoke and mirrors. He’s becoming a very good football player.”


Before Smith took the field with 5:22 remaining, and the 49ers’ trailing 17-14, Singletary had some words for him.


“Before he left the sideline, I said, ‘Here it is. It’s your time.’ He went out there and he was doing what we asked him to do in a crucial situation,” Singletary said. “He managed the ball. He got it around to different guys.”


But Smith said he did not view it as a desperation situation. He said it was important that he just continue to play smart football and not risk a turnover. He said he wasn’t going to force the ball into coverage.


“I thought we had a lot of opportunities to win the game,” Smith said. “We got to make those plays, and it changes the game. I know we’re capable of making them. Good teams have offenses that do that. I think we’re capable of it. The expectation level is higher.”


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Patrick Willis was amazing, as usual. He recorded 16 tackles with two tackles for loss.


“It’s disheartening. It’s sick,” Willis said when asked to describe the feeling in the locker room. “We had every expectation of coming up here and doing what we needed to do to win the game. We knew coming in if we played tough football for 60 minutes, we’d win the game. And we didn’t.”


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The 49ers reported no injuries from today’s game.


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