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Sunday, September 27, 2009
Singletary: 'We will see them again' in playoffs

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
San Francisco coach Mike Singletary wouldn't let his team get down after a heartbreaking loss to the Vikings.


MINNEAPOLIS -- The curtain separating reporters from the San Francisco 49ers' locker room Sunday was no match for coach Mike Singletary's impassioned rants.

"Stop looking at the floor!" he ordered players in an otherwise silent locker room. "We didn't steal anything, we didn't do anything wrong, OK? We're going to get better. We are going to get there."

The momentum was building.

"We will see them again -- in the playoffs!" Singletary continued. "All right?"
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Singletary remained out of view, but he commanded the room on both sides of the curtain. Reporters were rapt, players silent.

"You hold your head up!" he screamed. "You do not need to put your head down for nobody! You hold your head up! You understand? You hold your head up, your shoulders back and let's rock! OK? Let's go!"

The 49ers couldn't have dreamed a harder way to lose a game. Brett Favre's 32-yard strike to Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone with two seconds remaining turned a defining 49ers performance into heartbreak. But this defeat was not a total loss.

"You look at a game like today and it's a tough loss, but the team that lost this game, particularly like that, is going to be better for it," Singletary said during his postgame news conference. "It stings and it hurts like heck, but going forward, this will serve us well. We have to learn how to finish."

The 49ers have branded Singletary's five-point "formula for success" onto walls at their facility in Santa Clara, Calif. A quick look at each one shows the 49ers, despite nearly winning this game, have much work to do:

1. Total ball security. The 49ers came close. Shaun Hill threw one interception, but Glen Coffee protected the ball during 25 tough carries. The turnover battle was a push.

2. Execute. The 49ers fell short, failing to convert any of their 11 third-down opportunities before allowing Lewis to get free on the final play. Allowing a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown also hurt.

3. Dominate the trenches. Holding Adrian Peterson to 85 yards despite a 35-yard carry qualifies as a success. The 49ers averaged only 2.2 yards per carry, a number that doesn't seem so bad given that the Vikings knew what was coming. Coffee did have 12- and 13-yard runs in the third quarter when the 49ers needed to control the ball. The 49ers sacked Favre twice and roughed him up a few times. They did not dominate the trenches, but they weren't dominated either.

4. Create great field position. The 49ers were hit-and-miss on this front. They began drives at their own 14- and 8-yard lines early in the game. Their first second-half drive began at their own 16. The Vikings began one drive at the San Francisco 34.

5. Finish. Blaming the 49ers for failing to finish is seeing only part of the story. Favre made a Hall of Fame play when nothing less would suffice.


Give Favre credit, but not entirely at the 49ers' expense. They showed more in this game than anyone reasonably could have expected even three weeks ago:
The 49ers are not pretty. They are not going to suddenly become pretty. Their approach might not be good enough to win playoff games. But for all their obvious warts -- and none stands taller than that 0-for-11 mark on third down -- they were leading the Vikings in the Metrodome with three seconds remaining.

On that front, Singletary was right. The 49ers need not hang their heads for anybody. They're 2-1 heading into a home game against the 0-3 Rams.

"It's not the end of us," cornerback Dre Bly said. "We're going to fight back. We're a good football team."