Singletary impressed by 49ers’ leadership on offense

The 49ers closed to within two games of the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals on Sunday with a 20-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Candlestick Park. It was the 49ers’ most complete game of the season, and an encouraging game from quarterback Alex Smith.


Here is an interview I conducted with Smith after the game:



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A week ago after the 49ers’ loss to the Packers, coach Mike Singletary was not ready to address the media. He had to gain his composure. So the media was let into the locker room at a time when the coach is usually speaking in a separate room.


It was an odd locker room. For the first time, I saw players – offensive and defensive – speaking softly in little groups. I don’t know exactly what all these groups of players were discussing, but for the first time it seemed to me that there was some discontent with the direction of the team.


Sometimes issues like that never surface, and that’s how a locker room turns into a toxic environment.


The players seemed to take more ownership of the 49ers this week. Defensive players expressed a desire to be more aggressive and set the tempo. And offensive players went to Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye to voice the opinion that the spread offense was the 49ers’ best plan of attack.


Said Singletary: “The absolute best thing that happened this week was I saw leadership on the offensive side of the ball in terms of, ‘Coach, this is what I think would work. This is what I think we need. Can we do this? Can we do more spread?'”


“To me, that’s leadership,” Singletary continued. “That conversation could go to the parking lot. It could go in the bathroom. It could go to their homes. But it came to us. It came to me. Jimmy (Raye) and I sat down and talked about it, the offensive staff, the entire team, about what we need to do going forward. I think we just have to find our balance each and every week depending on what that team does.”


Which offensive players were the most vocal?


“Well, Vernon (Davis) would be the No. 1 guy – Alex (Smith was) a close second,” Singletary said. “Even the young kid – as much as I hate to say it, (Michael) Crabtree. I keep telling him he needs to be quiet, but he’s getting there. Good kid. Those guys are leading the pack.”


“We really did the same plays that we did last week,” 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree said. “We just did a good job of executing our plays, and just came up big when it was time to make big plays.”


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Up until today, the 49ers had used the shotgun/spread attack generally only on third downs, two-minute drills or in the second half when the club was far behind. But against the Jaguars, the 49ers ran 25 of their 38 first-half plays from the shotgun. Through three quarters, the 49ers had 31 shotgun snaps, and just 16 under center.


“I had a few more discussions with Jimmy this week about what we were doing,” Smith said. “We were more focused this week and really stepped it up. . . . I think we were (more aggressive). We weren’t in I-formation running the ball a lot, but we exposed them were we could.”


The 49ers felt like they could make some plays in the passing game today, as the Jaguars played without starting cornerback Rashean Mathis.


“We had a good mix of run and pass out of the gun, and we got after it,” Smith said.


Smith completed 27 of 41 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating for the game was 96.8. The offensive line did a strong job, too, as it yielded no sacks.


“Our playmakers made plays,” Davis said. “We got the ball in the hands of our playmakers. And we got a lot of them. You could see Delanie Walker (four catches for 52 yards) made some plays. And that’s what it’s all about.”


No play summed up the 49ers’ aggressiveness quite like a fourth-and-1 play from the Jacksonville 37 late in the second quarter. The 49ers came out in a run formation with two backs and two tight ends. Smith play-faked and just before getting clobbered by linebacker Daryl Smith, he let a pass fly down the field to Davis, who made a 30-yard reception against the coverage of linebacker Clint Ingram.


“Coach Singletary believes in us,” Davis said. “We always took about how good our offense is, and we believe in him. So it’s fourth-and-1, he called a play. Then, we have to go make it.”


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Ahmad Brooks replaces Manny Lawson as one of the team’s pass rushers in nickel situations. Brooks had a quarterback hurry in the game, but Lawson came through with a sack. It was one of six sacks for the 49ers. Justin Smith and Parys Haralson recorded 1.5 sacks apiece, while Takeo Spikes had one sack, and Patrick Willis and Demetric Evans had a half-sack apiece.


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It was the 49ers’ shortest injury report in a while. Defensive back Curtis Taylor sustained a left hip strain early in the game and did not return. He was on crutches afterward. Also reporting injuries were defensive end Kentwan Balmer (right shoulder sprain) and linebacker Parys Haralson (left thumb contusion).


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When the 49ers were in the locker room, they learned that the Titans had defeated the NFC West-leading Cardinals with a touchdown on the last play of the game. The 49ers are now two games behind the division leaders.”That is very exciting,” Singletary said. “One of the things that I don’t want our team doing is looking at what Arizona is doing, but you can’t help but. If a situation works out like that, that’s fantastic. We just have to make sure that we earn the right to look at what they’re doing and we’ve got to take care of business on our side.”


The 49ers play at Seattle on Sunday, while the Cardinals host the Vikings in a Sunday night game. The following week, Dec. 14, the 49ers play host to the Cardinals on a Monday night game at Candlestick.


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