Singletary’s debut against Seattle still fresh
SAN FRANCISCO – Vernon Davis remembers it all too well, the San Francisco 49ers’ game with Seattle last October at Candlestick Park. Mike Singletary’s crazy coaching debut.
“That’s the game I went to the locker room, huh?” Davis said with a grin. “I’m sure they’re going to do something to try to get me fired up and try to get me to go back to the locker room, but it ain’t happening. … They will not get to me. There’s not anything they can do to get me fired up. I’m going to go out and just be me and just play, play football.”
Yes, Singletary made quite a statement that fall day against the Seahawks, entertaining on so many fronts. He pulled down his pants in the locker room at halftime to make a point, benched struggling quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan in favor of Shaun Hill, and sent Davis to the showers early for what he deemed inappropriate behavior following a personal foul penalty.
Singletary was practically destined to lose that one, too, after the Niners fired Mike Nolan six days before the game instead of waiting until their bye the following week.
Seattle left with a 34-14 victory. Singletary called out his team afterward, saying “I want winners.”
“That is a game that I would totally like to forget,” Singletary said. “What I did at halftime, what I did with Vernon Davis, what I did after the game, all the other stuff. It was my first game, I learned a lot. I am very thankful that it happened, everything, because I had to grow up a lot that day.”
The coach and his 49ers have come a long way since as they head into Sunday’s home game with the Seahawks. Players have bought into Singletary’s system. Davis has become a captain, and even he wouldn’t have thought it possible.
“That game is still fresh in my mind,” Niners linebacker Takeo Spikes said. “We didn’t play as a whole the way we needed to. We look forward to this game because we left out of that stadium at Candlestick with a bad taste in our mouth.”
The stakes are high when the teams meet this time, even if it is only Week 2. The winner will be in first place in the NFC West.
Jim Mora’s Seahawks are coming off an impressive 28-0 shutout of St. Louis, while San Francisco won 20-16 at Arizona in its opener. Yet both coaches found plenty of faults in their performances.
The 49ers managed only 21 yards rushing, a franchise low in a victory – and not a good sign for a team that wants to be defined by a power-run offense. Frank Gore’s line: 30 yards on 22 carries.
“Not many teams are going to be able to hold us to 21 yards rushing, that’s for sure,” said Hill, who threw on 13 of the 15 plays during a decisive fourth-quarter scoring drive against the Cardinals.
Singletary said his offensive line must do all the basic things better so San Francisco can produce more effectively on the ground.
Can the Seahawks game plan, based on what worked for Arizona, hold Gore and Co. in check? It’s not quite that easy.
“Frank Gore’s an outstanding running back,” Mora said. “He’s a guy who can make big plays. That’s where we spend the majority of our focus. … They (Cardinals) did a nice job of attacking and penetrating. Our guys understand the challenge. They’ve played Frank Gore many times.”
And Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is no secret to the Niners, either. Seattle put up 446 yards of total offense last week, with Hasselbeck completing 25 of 36 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns, but also throwing two interceptions.
Hasselbeck, whose Seahawks are coming off their worst season in 16 years at 4-12, missed last year’s game in San Francisco because of back problems.
After that loss, Singletary let his team have it.
“I’d rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else rather than play with 11 when I know that right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team,” Singletary said. “It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them. Can’t do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win.”
Now, “We want winners” is featured on a billboard alongside Singletary’s picture along the freeway not far from team headquarters.
Mora’s been around long enough to know every coach does things he regrets. This is his first season in charge in Seattle after replacing the departed Mike Holmgren.
Mora endured a messy ending when he was fired in Atlanta three years ago. He was a coach in waiting last year with the Seahawks.
“You just kind of chuckle,” Mora said. “Guys that have coached in this league, we’ve all done things that we wish we hadn’t. But it’s a passionate and emotional game. Sometimes you get caught up in it and you’re just trying to make a point. Certainly he did a nice job with that team when he took over.”
Davis didn’t think he deserved the questionable personal foul penalty when he tapped Seattle’s Brian Russell on the facemask after a third-quarter catch. But Singletary was steamed after Davis feigned indifference at the coach when he was yanked off the field.
“I didn’t know what to say or what to think. He just sent me to the locker room,” said Davis, who still gets baited by opponents about it. “We had to learn each other, me and Singletary, had to get to know each other. We didn’t know how to deal with each other, but now we do. We’ve talked numerous times since we’ve been together. We definitely have each other’s back.”
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