So close, yet so far
» First-and-10 from the 42:Shaun Hill to Jason Hill for 13 yards
» First-and-10 from the 29: Hill to Hill for 14 yards
» First-and-10 from the 15: Hill to Hill for 14 yards
» First-and-goal from the 1: Hill spike to stop the clock
» Second-and-goal from the 1:Frank Gore stumbles for a 1-yard loss, pictured
» Third-and-goal from the 2:Michael Robinson stuffed for a 1-yard gain as time expires
Communications lapses among the officiating crew, the 49ers' coaching staff and the San Francisco players were responsible for the ugly end to a riveting game Monday night: Michael Robinson's ineffective attempt to run the ball in from the 2 1/2-yard line on what turned out to be the final play in San Francisco's 29-24 defeat.
Although Singletary accepted all the blame Tuesday, he also wished the officials had made it clear they were moving the ball back 2 yards after video review on Frank Gore's run on the previous play. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz called a fullback draw that's designed to get only about a yard -- which is about how far the 49ers thought they had to go.
"No one came to our sideline to say the ball was going to be moved," Singletary said. "Someone should do that. There should be some people -- we shouldn't have to stand over there and see the ball is being moved while everything is going on, because we're trying to make the correct (play) call."
Right before Robinson's run, Gore stumbled and fell on a run around the end before dragging himself into the end zone. The play required a video review to determine whether Gore had been down by contact. The officials correctly determined former 49ers defensive lineman Chike Okeafor had knocked Gore off balance, and they also decided Gore was down 2 yards farther from the line than the initial spot.
Singletary said nobody told the San Francisco sideline about the changed spot. He couldn't understand why so much time was allowed to come off the clock after Gore's play was reviewed, with just four seconds remaining when play resumed -- and he also didn't know why officials restarted the game when the ball was ready for play, and not at the whistle.
"The only thing I'd like to have happen as a result of this game, all over the league, is for ... one official to go to one sideline, and one official should come to our sideline and say, 'This is the scenario, this is what's happening,"' Singletary said. "Because we have no idea. We have no clue what's going on. The referee is standing out in the middle of the field and says whatever he's saying, but you can't hear it on the sideline."
The result of all that confusion was a haphazard run by Robinson while Gore improbably was used as a decoy on the biggest play of the night. Martz echoed Singletary's complaints about the lack of communication, saying he got stuck running the play for Robinson because the officials elected to restart the game with 4 seconds to play.
"Even if they'd moved it back to the 10-yard line, we wouldn't have had time to change the play," Martz said. "It wouldn't have mattered. We had to run that play, so I thought that was unfortunate. We were trying to spike the ball. Had we been allowed to spike the ball, none of that would have happened. The clock was stopped, and we could've gotten in the personnel we wanted. You can do a play you want."
"I didn't know it was the (2 1/2 yard line) until this morning," Martz said. "I didn't know. I left the stadium thinking we didn't make it from the 1 1/2- or 1-yard line. I couldn't believe we couldn't punch it in from the 1-yard line. I was upset with that. I couldn't see from where I was."
The last-minute struggles deflated much of the good feeling from one of the 49ers' better performances of the season, but Singletary hopes to regain that vibe during a short week of preparation for Sunday's visit from St. Louis.
Although Shaun Hill made three crushing turnovers, he passed for 217 yards and two touchdowns while leading two solid late-game drives with eight receivers catching passes, including rising youngsters Jason Hill and Dominique Zeigler.
The game left Singletary feeling vaguely cheated -- yet after everything that's gone wrong for the 49ers (2-7) during their six-game losing streak, he wasn't ready to throw blame on anybody outside the club's own training complex.
"I've been told that I should probably go ahead and call the league, but it's the last thing I want to do right now," the interim coach said. "I don't need to hear that, 'Well, that's on us.' I don't really need to hear that, in my mind, because they're not going to change anything. The game's still gone. So, in my mind, I'm going to let it go."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press