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Singletary's Notebook: Dec. 21



Opening statement:**

"Good morning. After looking at the game film, I felt a little bit better, after looking at the film. Overall as a team, I thought we played pretty hard. We just didn't play very smart at times. When I looked at the offensive side of the ball, I thought [QB] Alex Smith did some nice things. As a matter of fact, I owe him an apology. I talked with him after the game and we had a conversation where I really kind of challenged him on some things, some of those throws or whatever. After looking at it, I have a better perspective. The first interception that he threw, he was throwing the ball to [TE] Vernon [Davis], and to be honest with you, I just think Vernon has to make a better play on that ball. I think the ball was there. It's just one of those situations where Vernon either has to make that play, or either he has to stop that DB from making that play. He's got to help the quarterback as well. Vernon is going to be a great tight end one day, but he's got to put the whole package together. That was the first interception. The second interception that Alex threw, it looks like the defense was playing two-man. The same sort of thing happened when we played Tennessee, where they had sort of like a four-man, where when the tight end takes off up the field, the safety is going to take off with him, and then the quarterback is getting back in a rhythm and it's like, the ball is out. So, when you have a quarterback that's as efficient as Alex can be and is getting the ball out and getting it to the receivers, then what you do from time to time is do a trap two. It's a trap coverage where you're throwing the ball on timing, and it looks like the receiver, or the defender is going with that receiver, and about one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, you come back and get in front of the second guy that the quarterback is going to try and throw the ball to because he feels that either the corner or the safety has run off, but they come back. So, that's what happened last night on the second coverage. I know that doesn't make any sense to you, but I'm trying to explain it within the time frame that I can. But, I can understand why it happened; you just don't want it to happen. The last interception he threw was just a poor decision. He's trying to – the guy has him, he's trying to make a throw to [RB] Frank [Gore]. It's a bad decision. So, when I look at his play other than that, he's getting the ball out, he's throwing the ball where it needs to be. He threw some nice balls, out patterns – wherever you want it. He was making some pretty good throws.

I thought the o-line, overall, did a pretty decent job. The guys were physical on the run. I thought we did a pretty decent job on the run. As far as the passes were concerned, a couple of times protection broke down. When that happens, it's not going to be a good situation. We had hoped to be able to run the ball a little bit more than we did, but when we got behind, obviously we had to take some chances and throw the ball down the field a little bit more. Otherwise, we would have liked to have stayed with the run a little bit.

I thought Frank ran the ball well when he had the opportunity. It's a shame we couldn't have gotten him the ball more last night. That's kind of the way we were built in thinking this week, running the ball a little bit more this week because they're a smaller front. When we got behind – which is what they're built for, coming from behind, rushing the passer, stunting, those kinds of things – they got to do what they do more than we did. That's kind of the situation there. I thought the receivers played pretty decent. Josh Morgan really did a nice job. The receivers did a good job blocking downfield. So, when I think about the offense overall, that's pretty much it for the offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, I thought our guys – once again – I thought they played pretty well. Once again, they did not play very smart at times. A few coverage breakdowns, communication breakdowns rather. Whether or not you're going to be on top of a receiver or underneath him, that happened a couple of times, and one time it got us. But, it happened twice. Linebackers, underneath coverage: One time a tight end was going across the field, the guy has to stay with him. The communication has to be there, 'I'm done here. You pick him up.' That didn't happen. All that is is just when you get behind, guys are trying to make plays. Guys are trying to do something more than just their job, and you can't do it. You just can't do that.

I thought the d-line did a pretty decent job. I thought the guys were playing hard. I thought Philly, their idea, their thought process when they were passing the ball was to either play action or max protect. I don't think the play action worked very well because they didn't get to run the ball very well. Play action runs better when you run the ball well. They didn't do a good job of that, so they did a better job max protecting, which means just keeping all of your people in and sending out maybe a couple of receivers and hoping you have time to hit them downfield. When it wasn't there, our DBs were covering, did a good job getting their hands on the guys for the most part. When it wasn't there, [QB Donovan] McNabb just threw it out of bounds. A couple of times, he threw it to us. There were other times where either the d-line got their hands up and batted the ball down, but, like I said, they were playing hard.

Special teams, [K] Joe Nedney had a hamstring. Hamstring got tight on him, and a field goal was not possible last night, so we had to go on fourth down a couple of times when we would have maybe opted to kick a field goal. Other than that guys, questions?"

On whether he is planning for QB Alex Smith to be the starting quarterback in 2010:
"I think right now the thing that I want to do before I start talking about who's going to do this and who's going to do that, I want to finish the season. I want to play this game this week. I want to see how our offense and defense and special teams respond this week, knowing there is definitely no chance that we're going to go to the playoffs. I think they'll respond fine, but I want to get through. It's going to take everything to get our guys ready and focused to get ready and play a good team coming in here. So, that's the first thing I want to do. Right now, before there is a temptation to start thinking about, 'Well, who's going to do this? What changes do I need to make there and to start meeting with [general manager] Scot McCloughan about this and that.' I can't do that.  We've got to focus on the two games that we have left. We're going to finish. We're going to finish this season and let everything else take care of itself."

On whether he is pleased with Smith's growth each week:
"Yes, I am. When I look at Alex, I think each week he's continued to grow. I think he's done a lot in a short amount of time. There are some quarterbacks around the league, and I'm not going to get into that, but that's been playing a while, and I don't think as efficient as he is right now. So, to me, when I'm looking at him and some of the things that he's been able to do, and some of things that he did last night, some of the decisions that he made, I think some of the things that have been happening right now for him, it's just that experience factor. It's just getting the timing down with the receivers more, and those little trap plays there whether it's a two or four, he's going to have a better feel for if that safety is really going to go with that tight end, or is that corner really going to go with the No. 1 receiver. All that is is just seeing it long enough, going through it long enough so you have a feel for it. But, I'm comfortable with what I'm seeing right now."

On the areas of the team that he has questions about:
"It's like this: I think, for our team, it's a situation where I think the most important thing for us to do, when everything is all said and done, is to look back at the problem areas and try and address those. But, when you look at the defense, there was a time that I was maybe a little more concerned about the back end, but I think our DBs have done a better job of getting their hands on guys and being more physical with their receivers. I think on the offensive line, I think there was a time that I had a lot of questions about the offensive line, but I think they've worked through some things and have gotten to a point where they're a pretty decent offensive line. There are just parts of the team that we have to address. We're constantly evaluating talent. We're constantly evaluating our players and coaches. I think we just have to sit down and really take a close look at it. I think it's a good situation to have when I can't just sit here and go, 'Oh, we've got a problem here. We've got a problem there.' I think we've got to sit down and look at the film and, as a staff, kind of go through it and really look at we have to address this issue and that issue and move on."

On whether he will play backups the rest of the season:
"I think first and foremost, the last message I want to send is: we want to evaluate before we want to win. We want to win. Every time we step on the field, I want our guys to know we want to win and we want to compete. But at the same time, if we have a guy that hasn't had a chance to play, or we haven't really had a chance to look at him and we think maybe there is a chance he can play, to send him in for a series or maybe two and see how he handles that, that gives you some idea of where he is. It doesn't mean you have to play him the whole game or a whole half. I just think if there are spots where you feel you can do it, then do it. If you feel you can't, then it's just not going to happen. But we are going to try to win first."

On teaching the team how to win on the road:
"After the season we have to sit down and evaluate it. We have to sit down and evaluate what we can do better, what we need to do better. Was it the road? Was it just the team? Was it that week, or whatever? I think when it is all said and done, we just have to evaluate it and go from there."

On why 49ers quarterbacks have started well and hit a wall the last couple of seasons:
"First of all, I have not seen Alex hit a wall. I have to be very honest there, that is why I am looking forward to the next two games. I have not seen him hit a wall. I think he has been consistent. We can go back to the Tennessee game and you say, 'Hey, he had four turnovers.' No, no he didn't. There was some help that he had in that game, and it was the same in this game. It is a shame to me that every time a quarterback throws an interception that automatically it's him. The guy is off, well he stinks. I think it is very important, and you have to evaluate it as the coach and make sure that you are looking at that quarterback and not destroy him and forget about the other parties involved. Is it the line, are they giving him enough protection? Is it the receivers, are they getting where they are supposed to go? Is there a trust factor, that receiver, can he trust him? There are a lot of different issues, which is why when I look at the film I am very encouraged. I don't have a situation in here where I am sitting back thinking, 'Man, I thought Alex was making progress and now I don't know.' I'm not there at all, I promise you. I feel very good about his progression and the fact that he has only played a month and a half, maybe two, I am very encouraged by what I have seen in a short amount of time for a guy who has been out of football for a couple of years."

On the inconsistencies on deep passes in the past two games:
"I don't know about that. I would have to go back and look at that. That is something you have seen and I need to pay more attention to it. I will look at that and address it. But I think overall, with most quarterbacks, it is the same scenario, when you are throwing the ball within 10 yards, 15 yards, that intermediate route, you have more room. You have more room to throw, you have the crossing routes, you have that kind of stuff which is easier to hit. When you start talking about the accuracy downfield, that is something, for a quarterback, that is a little more difficult for most of them. I have seen Alex throw the ball downfield and hit the receivers, but I guess the consistency factor, I need to go back and look at the ratio and see what that is because I really haven't seen enough to say, 'Good under and not good up there.'"

On how he feels about missing the playoffs:
"Let me ask you this: Give me some idea, if you have any idea, you have been sitting in this chair for a little bit, how do you have any idea how you think I might feel?"

[I would imagine you feel deeply disappointed.]
"That's putting it mildly. Yes, I am very frustrated. There are a lot of adjectives, some that I can't say, but I feel. This is a team that, it is unfortunate, it is a team that is good enough, they have to play perfect every week, the margin for error is very, very small, but this is a team that is very close to being that playoff team. I am saying very close because now we are not going to be in there. I think a lot of the pieces are in place. The most important thing in place, I think, is the work ethic and the belief that we are a step away, or however you put it. But I don't really want to go there either because you start talking like, 'Oh, but next year.' I don't want to go there either. All I know is this group of guys, I am very proud of what they have been able to accomplish. Closing out the season is very important, in terms of how we do that because everything we want to be about going forward has everything to do with how we finish. If we want to call ourselves a good team or a decent team or an average team, to me not being able to go to the payoffs, and it is for them because they have worked hard enough, but we just weren't smart enough, for the most part, to make it. But very frustrating, very frustrating."

On any new injuries:
"I think [RB] Glen Coffee has a thigh strain and [K] Joe Nedney, they both will have an MRI today and we will see from there. I think [T Joe] Staley came out OK, I will get more information on that later on. But I think everything else is okay."

On Nedney's status for next week:
"If he can't kick the ball, if he can't kick field goals, then we will possibly try to look at someone to see if we can solve that issue."

On whether the person he would look at would be from outside the team:
"Yes sir."

On whether P Andy Lee could handle the kicking duties:
"I don't think so."

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