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November 11, 2008
Martz: Nolan explained to me what happened

Finally, someone who can clear up the confusion about what happened in the final seconds Monday night. That person? Recently fired coach Mike Nolan, who had a phone conversation with Mike Martz this morning. Nolan, Martz insists, was the first person who told him that the final play of the game -- the infamous fullback draw -- was not run from the half yard line like Martz left the stadium believing but rather from much farther back. I'm not making this up: The current offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers had a morning chit chat with the head coach who was fired three weeks ago.

Just as Mike Singletary said earlier today, Martz was under the impression that on the final play the ball would be spotted at the half yard line. But whereas Singletary accurately said the play ended up being spotted at the 2 1/2 yard line, even by this afternoon Martz wasn't sure where the play began. He insisted it was the 3 1/2.
"We did not know the ball would be on the 3 1/2, otherwise obviously we would never have called that play," he said.

Wasn't it the 2 1/2?
"Three and half," Martz said.

Why did you think the ball was on the half yard line?
"That's what I could see out there. That's where they spotted the ball. From where I was standing ... there are people standing around the ball and the huddle and you can't see anything, so ... They walked it off at the last second and told us it was going to start on the official's whistle.... If they had moved it back to the 10 yard line, we couldn't have changed the play. I wouldn't have mattered. We had to run that play. We couldn't have changed anything."

Why not spike the ball with four seconds left ... after the review?
"Well, I didn't know it was on the three and a half until this morning. I didn't know. I still didn't know until this morning. ... I left the stadium thinking that the ball was still ... I couldn't believe that we couldn't punch it in from the 1 yard line. I was upset with that."

Shouldn't the guys in the booth be feeding you that information?
"When they spot the ball and they give it one of these deals (pantomiming the motion for 'start the clock') you've got to spike it! You've got to spike it! There's no headset on. Fifteen seconds. You can't talk to the quarterback. What are you gonna do?"

At what point did you realize the ball was where it was?
"I got a call from Mike Nolan this morning. He knew exactly what happened."

No kidding?
"Oh, yeah. He said ... He's the only one smart enough to look at the TV and he knew immediately. He's the one who really knows football well to know exactly what happened."

What did he say?
"He just said, 'Hey, you got victimized by the replay. Which is basically what happened. because if we'd been allowed to get that spike.... You know, I'm just angry and frustrated with how that whole thing developed. I guess there's nobody really to blame other than there's just a lack of communication. That part wasn't very good."

First off, this may sound like splitting hairs, but the half yard line and the 3 1/2 yard line never entered into the equation during the final play of the game. After Frank Gore's second-down run, the ball was originally spotted at the 1 1/2 yard line and then moved back, following the review, to the 2 1/2 yard line. If Martz was basing his play call -- indeed, basing the entire outcome of the game -- on the belief that the ball was on the half yard line, shouldn't he have been sure? Also, Martz said that Robinson gained two yards on the play. In fact, he barely gained one yard. That's a lot of discrepancy and imprecision at a critical juncture of the game.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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