Mike Singletary will make his head coaching debut this Sunday, when the San Francisco 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park in the second meeting between the NFC West rivals this season.
Singletary, the 16th head coach in 49ers history, steps in for Mike Nolan, who was fired on Monday after compiling a 2-5 record as San Francisco’s head coach this year and an 18-37 mark since taking over the role in 2005. The 49ers had lost their last four games under Nolan, who saw his club lose eight in a row last year after two wins to begin the season.
It will now be Singletary who is given the task of having the Niners shoot for their first winning season since 2002, an uphill battle considering the club’s current record.
Singletary has never been an NFL head coach before and served as San Francisco’s assistant head coach since 2005. He spent two seasons prior to that as Baltimore’s inside linebackers coach.
The 49ers dropped their final game under Nolan last Sunday, a 29-17 defeat at the hands of the New York Giants. Quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan threw for 256 yards and a touchdown with two picks, while Frank Gore, who entered the game leading the NFL in scrimmage yards, was held to just 11 rushing yards on 11 carries.
One highlight of the loss was San Francisco blocking a Giants’ field goal try and returning it for a touchdown for the second straight game, becoming the first team in NFL history to accomplish that feat.
Linebacker Manny Lawson returned to the 49ers lineup from a hamstring injury and blocked the kick, with corner Nate Clements taking it 74 yards for a score.
The 49ers have lost two straight and three of four at home this season, and their 2-5 mark is ahead of only Seattle (1-5) in the division.
The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers, 10-9, but were 33-30 overtime losers when the teams met in Week 2. Seattle swept last year’s home- and-home, including a 23-3 win at Candlestick Park in Week 4. San Francisco swept the 2006 home-and-home.
Holmgren is 13-6 versus San Francisco, where he served as an assistant from 1986 through 1991. Holmgren was 5-1 against the Niners during his tenure as head coach with Green Bay (1993-98), including a 3-1 record in the playoffs. Singletary, of course, is making his head coaching debut.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Holmgren’s offenses usually make their living through the air, but with Hasselbeck (656 passing yards, 2 TD, 4 INT) struggling due to his back issues, the Seahawks are ranked last in the league at 126.8 passing yards per game. Neither Wallace nor Frye threw for over 100 yards in two games replacing Hasselbeck under center. Wallace struggled in leading Seattle’s offense versus Tampa Bay, as the Seahawks managed only seven first downs and 176 yards of offense, while going 2-for-10 on third-down conversion attempts. Seattle has been trying to establish the run due to uncertainty at the QB spot and is averaging 131.5 rushing yards per game, which is good for eighth in the league. Seattle features two capable backs in Julius Jones (459 rushing yards, 2 TD) and Maurice Morris (103 rushing yards). Versus the Bucs, Morris had 56 yards on six carries, while Jones ran for 42 yards on seven attempts. Rookie tight end John Carlson (19 receptions, 2 TD) hauled in a touchdown pass last weekend, while Koren Robinson had two catches for a team-best 23 yards. In addition to Hasselbeck, wideout Deion Branch has missed the last two games because of a heel ailment.
The 49ers’ defense has faced some quality offenses over their four-game losing streak in New Orleans, New England, Philadelphia and the New York Giants. The unit did hold the Giants under 300 yards of offense (273), with 112 of those yards coming on the ground. That was a little better for a defense that is allowing an average of 122.4 rushing yards per game, which is just 23rd in the league. The 49ers have also struggled keeping other teams out of the end zone, as their 28 points allowed per game is 28th in the NFL. San Francisco failed to sack New York quarterback Eli Manning in the loss and also did not force a turnover. Linebacker Patrick Willis (63 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and corner Walt Harris (30 tackles, 1 INT) had nine tackles each in the loss, while defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (24 tackles) had seven. Linebacker Takeo Spikes (46 tackles, 3 INT) added seven stops. On the injury front, both defensive end Ray McDonald (19 tackles, 1 sack) and safety Dashon Goldson (17 tackles) suffered knee injuries versus the Giants that will cause them to miss this game, while safety Michael Lewis (40 tackles, 1 sack) is questionable due to a knee injury of his own.
WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL
Gore has been the one constant for the 49ers this year, but he struggled mightily against the Giants. His 11 yards rushing was his lowest total since he gained just five yards on two carries as a rookie on December 11, 2005 versus Seattle. Gore (535 rushing yards, 25 receptions, 5 TD) did stay active in the passing game on Sunday, making three catches for 50 yards to give him 781 scrimmage yards this season. The Miami-Florida product has a bit of a different look in front of him, as Michael Robinson has taken over starting fullback duties from the injured Zak Keasey. Robinson’s start at fullback last weekend was his first at that position in his career. O’Sullivan (1547 passing yards, 8 TD, 10 INT), meanwhile, has struggled with turnovers over his last four games, getting picked off nine times and losing three fumbles during that span while throwing for five touchdowns. Rookie wide receiver Josh Morgan had a breakout game versus the Giants, setting career-highs in catches (5) and yards (86) while hauling in his first-ever touchdown grab. Morgan, though, missed practice earlier in the week to rest a groin injury. He has moved ahead of Bryant Johnson (13 receptions, 1 TD) on the depth chart as San Francisco’s No. 2 wideout along side Isaac Bruce (19 receptions, 4 TD). The Niners rank 24th in total offense (299.4 YPG), have committed a league-worst 18 turnovers and have allowed an NFL-worst 29 sacks allowed. Tackle Jonas Jennings has missed the last five games due to a shoulder injury and likely won’t play this weekend either.
Seattle’s defense has struggled this year, yielding 363.5 yards per game (27th overall), with 242.2 of those coming through the air (29th). In addition, the 28.5 points allowed per game by the Seahawks ranks 29th in the NFL. One problem Seattle has had is forcing turnovers, as the club is tied for last in the league with five takeaways and made just one interception. Seattle’s defense, which was on the field for over 40 minutes last weekend, saw the Bucs total 402 yards of offense in the 10-point game. Linebacker D.D. Lewis (16 tackles) led the way with 11 tackles, while defensive end Darryl Tapp (20 tackles) had nine. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (17 tackles, 2 sacks) had the team’s lone sack while also forcing a fumble. Corner Josh Wilson (30 tackles) recovered a fumble and nearly took it to the end zone, but the play was whistled dead after the recovery due to a challenge, as the original ruling on the play was an incomplete pass. Linebacker Julian Peterson, who played in San Francisco from 2000-05, has five sacks in his last three games against his former club, while defensive end Patrick Kerney has at least one sack in six of his last seven games against divisional opponents.