In a season full of drama for the San Francisco 49ers, Monday night’s loss was just the latest episode.
The 49ers hope to write a different chapter on Sunday when they host the equally woeful St. Louis Rams.
Two weeks after interim coach Mike Singletary’s postgame tirade following their 34-13 loss to Seattle, the 49ers were on the verge of winning their first game since Sept. 21 on Monday at Arizona.
Allen Rossum’s 104-yard opening kickoff return gave San Francisco a lead it wouldn’t relinquish until 4:21 remaining. But as they had done in their previous five games, the 49ers (2-7) lost as fullback Michael Robinson was stuffed at the 2-yard line as time expired in the 29-24 defeat.
“That was definitely one of the most frustrating losses I can remember in my 15 or 16 years playing football,” San Francisco center Eric Heitmann said.
Added to the frustration was that Frank Gore, who carried 23 times for 99 yards, didn’t get the final carry.
“I think (offensive coordinator) Coach (Mike) Martz felt that there would be a cavity inside, so he made the call,” said Singletary, who fell to 0-2 since taking over for Mike Nolan on Oct. 21. “So you’ve got to live with the result.”
Singletary took a more diplomatic approach on Tuesday as he accepted the blame for the final play, but he and Martz voiced concern about how officials handled the video review on the play before Robinson’s final push.
On that play, Gore fell as he went around the end, then worked his way into the end zone. Officials ruled that Gore was down by contact and that the ball was two yards back from the initial spot.
“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.”
Gore – the NFL’s sixth-leading rusher with 728 yards – did not practice on Wednesday due to a neck injury suffered on the final drive, but is expected to play against the Rams, owners of the league’s 30th-ranked rush defense.
In four career starts against St. Louis, Gore has averaged 93.5 yards rushing.
Shaun Hill completed 19-of-40 passes for 217 yards and two first-half touchdowns, but lost a fumble and was intercepted twice in the final 30 minutes.
“It’s tough, but it’s time to get ready for St. Louis,” Hill told the team’s official Web site.
Rookie Josh Morgan had four catches for 54 yards – including a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter – but won’t play Sunday due to a groin injury.
Vernon Davis, banished to the lockerroom by Singletary during the coach’s debut, had his first touchdown reception of the season – an 18-yarder that extended the 49ers’ lead to 21-13.
While Singletary is trying to dig his team out of the NFC West basement, so is Rams interim head coach Jim Haslett following Sunday’s 47-3 loss to the New York Jets.
“It was embarrassing,” Haslett said of St. Louis’ third loss in a row. “That was bad football all the way around. I can’t even describe it.”
St. Louis (2-7) committed five turnovers and trailed 40-0 at halftime.
Marc Bulger completed 6-of-13 passes for 65 yards and an interception. He was sacked twice, and his fumble in the first quarter was returned 50 yards for a touchdown. Trent Green took over in the second half, but completed only 5-of-10 passes for 70 yards and an interception.
“I didn’t take Marc out because he was playing bad,” Haslett said. “I took him out because we were behind.”
In his previous start against Arizona on Nov. 2, Bulger completed 16-of-33 passes for 186 yards, and was picked off twice in the Rams’ 34-13 loss.
“We are not getting the job done on offense and that falls on the quarterback,” Bulger said. “Whether I have to throw it 60 times next week or 30 or back up, whatever it takes to help our team win, I’m willing to take that role.”
Haslett said Bulger will start against the 49ers, and that, “There was no discussion with the staff (about a change).”
With Steven Jackson out (thigh) against New York, the Rams were led by second-year running back Kenneth Darby, who carried four times for 32 yards. Jackson did not practice Friday and will sit out for the third time in four weeks.
“I really didn’t think I would miss a game, let alone two or three,” Jackson said. “For it to linger like this, it really begins to make you wonder what’s really going on.”