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Loss to Saints has Singletary singing 49ers' praises

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Calm and completely positive, Mike Singletary showed no outward signs he is disappointed to be 0-2. Of course, he's upset about it. This is hardly where his San Francisco 49ers expected to be at this early stage.

Yet after taking the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints to the final seconds in a 25-22 loss Monday night, he saw plenty of signs of progress. Even if the Niners committed four turnovers and beat themselves.

"I just think this team is a young team. They're learning some very valuable things early on in the season," Singletary said Tuesday. "I believe they will capitalize and pick up, and it will serve us well going forward."

Singletary listed all the positives: quarterback Alex Smith and the offensive line were the best since he's been here, the coordinators on both sides of the ball ran a good game, running back Frank Gore starred like his old self, the effort level was there.

This was a far cry from the defensive, emotional coach who last week claimed there could be a "rat" within the organization giving inaccurate information to the media in one Yahoo! report that Singletary quickly shot down.

Singletary also was probably the most combative he's been, at least since taking over as head coach, during a television interview last week that made its rounds afterward. During that session, he said: "We will stop Drew Brees."

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Singletary said he's not about to change his approach or who he is -- his players say they thrive on his intensity and emotion -- but he will choose his words and actions more carefully from now on.

"In terms of reining myself in, there was one interview that took place last week that was a little bit off the chart. Should I have reined myself in? Probably so," he said. "One thing that I've learned about this job: I have to be who I am. I'm not a politician. I'm not a tap dancer. I say things that I feel. ... The biggest thing that I've learned is it's important to look at how you're wired, and you've got to go with that -- until the day I die. I have to continue to learn wisdom in certain instances and learn what to stand for and what not to get upset about. Last week was tremendous for me. Matter of fact, it was tremendous for our staff."

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye took heat for play-calling problems in a season-opening 31-6 loss at Seattle in which there was trouble getting the play into Smith's ear before his headset cut out with 15 seconds left on the play clock.

Things were more efficient against the Saints, and Singletary noted the improvement. After Gore ran for a 7-yard touchdown with 1:19 to play Monday night, Smith hit Vernon Davis for a two-point conversion that tied the score.

The 49ers outgained the Saints, 417-287, ultimately losing when Garrett Hartley's deflected 37-yard field goal fluttered over the crossbar after time expired.

"We whupped their behind up and down the field. They can't stand up with us," Gore said. "And we beat ourselves for the second week in a row. We've got to change that."

Gore's big game was a highlight for the offense. He ran for 112 yards, his franchise-best 21st career 100-yard rushing game, and caught a 12-yard TD pass from Smith.

So, did Raye improve in Week 2 after taking the blame for the problems against the Seahawks?

"I thought he was good. I thought he did an outstanding job," Singletary said.

Smith pointed to a handful of plays, "self-inflicted," that cost the 49ers in the loss to the Saints. This is the team that was the popular pick to win the NFC West but now faces an early hole. The Niners are 0-2 for the first time since dropping their first four games in 2004.

San Francisco began 3-1 last season with hopes of reaching the playoffs but then lost four straight and five of six. The Niners wound up 8-8 and out of the postseason for the seventh straight year.

They now have a quick turnaround and travel to Kansas City for Sunday's game with the Chiefs (2-0). San Francisco hopes to build off the near-miss against the New Orleans.

"Last week was over," receiver Michael Crabtree said. "We had a real good game, and we played our hearts out out there, and we came up a little short."

Singletary started his Tuesday address by crediting the fans. The sellout crowd at Candlestick Park booed the home team early in the game, but people stayed in their seats when San Francisco rallied late.

"I think the guys took a big step last night," Singletary said. "It's one thing as a coach you continue to talk about things you talked about in training camp, you talked about after the first game, before the first game. But I think at some point in time the players get it. You can talk to them and say things, but there has to be some point in time they get it, and they take it, and they understand it. I think last night that transpired."

When Singletary speaks, his players tend to pay attention. The coach called a team meeting back at team headquarters following the Seattle loss.

"We've just got to listen to our leader, just do what he says and do everything he tells us," Gore said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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