Singletary impressive after 49ers’ agonizing defeat

The 49ers absolutely blew this game tonight. They had control of the game throughout, and then mismanaged the final critical seconds of the game – an excruciating 29-24 loss to the NFC West-leading Cardinals.

This might sound a bit on the nutty side, but this is exactly the kind of game Mike Singletary needed to experience as head coach. I’m looking at the big picture. This is the kind of game that will do more to prove Singletary as a head coach than any victory would’ve done.


This was an emotional loss for an emotional man. And Singletary handled it with aplomb. He handled it like a leader. I walked out of the locker room this evening very impressed with Singletary and his message to the team.


Oh, sure, a victory would have been a nice reward for such an outstanding all-around effort. But a victory might have given the team false hope that they’ve turned the corner. Singletary can use a game like this as a learning experience for his players – and, especially, for himself.


“My heart is torn out because we lost,” Singletary said. “It also tells me something: We just have to learn how to finish games.”


That is No. 5 on Singletary’s list of “49ers formula for success.” And the 49ers did not finish. They have a long way to go before they can finish the job.


“We have a vision that we believe in thoroughly,” Singletary said. “But that vision did not get carried out today.”


* * *


Quarterback Shaun Hill played a gritty game. He played like nails in the first half. In the second half, he committed three costly turnovers.


“It’s very frustrating,” Hill said. “Our guys fought so hard. It was very frustrating that my turnovers in the second half really put the defense with their backs against the wall a couple of times. We had a great drive going and I threw the interception trying to hit Frank (Gore) on the check down. So any one of those three (turnovers) could have changed the game.”


Hill was crestfallen afterward, as you would expect.


“I was sitting at my locker and he (Singletary) came up and patted me on the shoulder,” Hill said. “It’s great to have that kind of encouragement from coach Singletary and I do appreciate that. I just really wish we could have gone out and gotten a win for him tonight, and it was there for the taking.”


* * *

The entire nation was watching breathlessly when tight end Vernon Davis was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after removing his helmet in the aftermath of catching a very impressive 18-yard scoring pass late in the first half.


Singletary approached Davis on the sideline, and Davis hugged his coach.


“I told him, ‘Great catch, (but) let’s remember to stay smart,'” Singletary said.


* * *

Here’s what Davis had to say after the game when I spoke with him:


“Me and coach Singletary are best of friends,” Davis said. “I love coach Singletary. He’s probably one of the best head coaches I’ve ever had.”


In what way?


“In every way,” Davis said. “He gets you prepared. He knows the game.”


Where you concerned what he might say to you after the penalty?


“No, I wasn’t concerned because I didn’t do anything foolish,” Davis said. “It was just excitement. It’s been a while since I got into the end zone. It was just excitement.”


There was an NFL Network report Sunday that Singletary apologized to Davis for his handling of that situation Oct. 26 against the Seahawks when Singletary banished him to the locker room and then blasted him in his remarks to the media. I asked Davis if Singletary apologized.


“I don’t think he did, but he didn’t need to apologize because he didn’t do anything wrong,” Davis said. “He was just into the game. I respect that.”


I asked if Davis, who is an emotional person, can relate to an emotional head coach such as Singletary.


“I do,” he said. “I just like to win. I’m a winner. I compete.”


* * *


The 49ers bungled the final minute of the game, no question about it.


There was confusion after Jason Hill was stopped at the 1-yard line. That play began with :52 remaining. The 49ers looked like they wanted to send on their short-yardage personnel. But then they decided to spike the ball.


Shaun Hill had to get everybody settled down and avoid any kind of penalty. He spiked the ball with :20 remaining. “We knew what we needed to do,” Hill said. “It was just a matter of getting lined up legally before we could do it.”


After Frank Gore’s run to the outside was stopped for a 1-yard loss, the 49ers had one final play from the 2-yard line with :04 remaining after a replay challenge.


On that play, Michael Robinson Robinson – not Gore — got the call up the middle. But he was stuffed by linebacker Clark Haggan a yard shy of the end zone.


“The clock started as soon as the whistle blew, so we just did what we could do,” Robinson said. “I always expect the ball, so I wasn’t surprised. They made the play and we didn’t.”


Offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who made the play call, was not available for comment after the game.


Said Singletary, “Coach Martz felt there would be a cavity inside, so he made that call.”


As for the final hectic seconds, Singletary admitted, “Yeah, we could’ve done a heck of a lot better job.”


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