Singletary: No such thing as meaningless game
It was unique strategy, to say the least. Most NFL coaches are terrified of overtime in exhibition games. But as we’ve already seen, Mike Singletary is not like most coaches.
Just think of the 49ers’ first two exhibition games. They only reason they emerged with one-point victories is because the Broncos’ Josh McDaniels and the Raiders’ Tom Cable opted for two-point conversion attempts in those games rather than tie it with extra points.
With four minutes remaining and the 49ers trailing by three points, Singletary went against conventional wisdom. In an ultra-conservative move, he opted against going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 6-yard line. Instead, he sent in Alex Romero for a short field goal to tie the game at 13-13.
The move turned out well. The defense held, and the young offense, led by quarterback Nate Davis marched down the field for the winning points.
“It has no meaning for you,” said Singletary, whose team improved to 3-0 in the exhibition season. “Every game we play has meaning to me. I would never enter a game thinking that it doesn’t matter.”
The game certainly mattered to a lot of the players who participated in Saturday’s game. Here’s a rundown of some of the 49ers’ more notable performances (or non-performances):
–QB Nate Davis: Prior to this evening’s game, I thought the 49ers could stash him on their practice squad. Now, I say there is absolutely no reason to take that chance. Sure, it was just an exhibition game against the Cowboys’ backups, but the kid showed a lot. He looks smooth. He showed poise. He looks like a player. The 49ers drafted him in the fifth round because they want him. They must not take any chance of losing him. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 132 yards. In the huddle, he told the offense, “Let’s not settle for the field goal.” Two plays later, Kory Sheets scored the winning TD.
–RB Kory Sheets: He led the 49ers with 42 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. He runs hard, as he showed with his 9-yard score for the winning points. “The offensive line did a great job of getting me deep before anybody touched me,” Sheets said. “Once I get a full head of steam, it’s tough to tackle me.” Again, there are teams out there looking for running backs. The 49ers should not let him get away.
–RB Frank Gore: He said he felt great. He did OK. He had 19 yards on five carries, and caught two passes for 8 yards.
–RB Glen Coffee: Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t playing against the Raiders. Still, he wasn’t bad. He rushed for 34 yards on eight carries. He also caught three passes for 27 yards.
–QB Shaun Hill and the first-team offense did not look very impressive. Hill completed just 9 of 17 passes for 79 yards during his five possessions. “I would have liked for it to have gone a bit smoother than it did,” Hill said. “I don’t know. You can’t tell a whole lot right now. I just wish we could have put a few more points on the board. . . . I don’t think there’s any reason for panic, that’s for sure. The offense is coming together.”
–QB Damon Huard played just one series. He completed 2 of 4. It’s unknown whether Huard will remain with the team. The 49ers have fielded some calls about Huard’s availability.
–QB Alex Smith did not play due to a thumb sprain.
—CB Tarell Brown: He saw his first action of the exhibition season, and he looked really, really good. Don’t be surprised if he ends up winning the starting job over veteran Dre’ Bly. At the very least, Brown showed he deserves a big role in the offense this season. Not only was he strong in coverage, he showed good awareness in the run game.
–SS Michael Lewis: He sustained his second concussion in 11 days. He’ll be re-evaluated, and it’s not known at this stage how long he will be out of action.
–S Mark Roman: Say what you want about him, the guy played one heck of a game. He intercepted a pass and came up to make some big tackles. He tripped up speedster Felix Jones after a 13-yard gain. If Roman had not make that sensational tackle, it would’ve been a long, long TD run. Roman would get the call to be in the starting lineup for Week 1, depending on how Lewis responds in the next couple weeks.
–WR Arnaz Battle got his chance, and he took advantage of it. Battle was money on third downs with Shaun Hill. In fact, it seems like Battle is the only receiver with whom Hill has a connection. Battle caught four passes for 54 yards. He has to make the team.
–The writing is on the wall for several of the wideouts. Chris Francies, Maurice Price, Mark Bradford and Dobson Collins did not play at all on offense.
–WR Jason Hill did not get into the game on offense until the final 11 minutes of the game. Hill played the remainder of the game but did not see one pass come his way. (UPDATE: This is incomplete information. While Hill did not officially have a pass thrown his way in the stat column, he was the target of the deep third-down throw that resulted in a 27-yard pass-interference penalty on the final drive.)
–The receivers who saw significant playing time before Hill stepped on the field were Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle, Dominique Zeigler and Spurlock.
–WR Micheal Spurlock caught two passes for 50 yards, including a 35-yard crossing route on the final drive. He had two fair catches as a punt returner, and he did not get much going on his two snaps from the 49ers’ version of the Single-Wing (they call it Taser). In fact, I believe he missed an opportunity for a big play when he handed off to Frank Gore, even though the Cowboys defensive end was crashing down on the play.
–CB Nate Clements: It was a rough game for the player considered to be the team’s best cornerback. He just gave up way too many plays in coverage.
–CB Eric Green: He saw a lot of action in the fourth quarter. He made three tackles and appeared to play pretty well. He forced a fumble, which safety Reggie Smith recovered.
–DL Ray McDonald played a few snaps as an inside pass rusher in nickel situations. He looked very tentative in his first game since undergoing ACL reconstruction in January.
–OLB Manny Lawson had a very tough game, too. The 49ers did not generate any pass rush, and Lawson had a difficult time getting off the line of scrimmage. His pass-rush moves need a lot of work.
–DL Kentwan Balmer again showed some good things. He got good pressure once, and another time broken through to get a hand on a pass.
–Speaking of the pass rush, the only guys I saw get some pressure on the quarterback were Justin Smith, Parys Haralson and Marques Harris.
–FS Dashon Goldson wasn’t always where he needed to be in coverage, but he again shows he is not afraid to hit. He recorded three tackles.
–FB Brit Miller: The converted linebacker caught two passes for 14 yards and is showing that he might be worth keeping around to develop.
–TE Bear Pascoe: He appears to be losing ground to Joe Jon Finley, who saw significant action as the team’s third TE. Pascoe did not play much. It does not look as if he’ll be the guy to enter in two-TE formations like the club envisioned when they drafted him.
–TE Delanie Walker: He caught two passes for 24 yards, but struggled in pass protection.
–LB Patrick Willis: Yep, the guy is pretty good.
–LB Ahmad Brooks: Not sure why, but he did not see much action. He was on the first-team kickoff coverage team. He recorded no tackles, no nothing.
–Sorry, I didn’t watch every offensive lineman on every play, but saw Chilo Rachal, Alex Boone and Joe Toledo get beaten in pass protection.
–LB Diyral Briggs: He missed a tackle on special teams, but he showed his athleticism when he worked his way across the field to record a tackle on a later kickoff return.
–CB Carlos Thomas: Singletary singled him out last week. He did not see much action on defense, but he made a big hit to stop DeAngelo Smith for 1 yard on a punt return. Thomas might be retained on the practice squad.
–K Alex Romero probably was kicking in his final game, as the first round of 49ers cuts are coming. He made 24-yard FG late in the game. He knew the score when he got here. There was no unseating Joe Nedney.
–NT Khalif Mitchell: His first play came early in the fourth quarter in a short-yardage situation. He promptly stopped Keon Lattimore for no gain on a third-and-1.
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