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September 12, 2010
Communication problems killed the 49ers

Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree isn't the only 49ers connection that needs work. After Sunday's 31-6 loss Mike Singletary lamented yet another game in which communication snafus haunted the 49ers. Smith burned three timeouts in the first half. Two of them came on third downs on the same second-quarter drive during which the 49ers also had a delay-of-game penalty on fourth and 1 at the Seattle 1 yard line.

"I don't really know what the situation is," Singletary said. "But there were some problem's with Alex's helmet." But Smith said technical problems with his headset -- a bugaboo in seasons past - occurred only once. The main issue, he said, was due to the 49ers coaches not getting the play into him quickly enough.

The 49ers relay their calls like this: Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is in the booth. He sends the play to quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson, who is on the sideline, and Johnson calls it into Smith. The quarterback's radio headset automatically cuts out with 15 seconds left on the play clock. In some instances such as the fourth-and-one scenario, Singletary first had to decide whether to kick field goals or go for the first down. Smith said that those situations were slow on Sunday.

"For whatever reason, most of them occurred on third-and-one and fourth-and-ones," he said. "So, yeah, whatever it is - deciding what personnel we're going to send in, deciding if we're going to go for it ...Obviously, that decision has to be made. The refs aren't waiting around to spot the ball based on what we're going to decide to do. That clock is rolling. We have to make that decision if you're going for it, then that play has to be called. You have to have a call ready. That happens fast."

Frustrating? "Oh, yeah, it's really frustrating," he said. "Absolutely."

As for Smith and Crabtree, that connection resulted in just two catches for six yards as well as two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Smith said that Crabtree turned to run upfield on the first in which the ball ricocheted off the receiver. On the second, he said that he and Crabtree weren't on the same page.

Smith said Crabtree had his head down when he let the ball go and Crabtree never saw it coming until it was too late. Asked if that was the type of thing that playing together in the preseason -- Crabtree has yet to play a preseason game for the 49ers -- might have helped, Smith said he wasn't sure.

"Obviously you'd like to say that would have helped," he said. "But who knows? It's tough to go back and second guess. What's done is done."

Smith finished 26 of 45 for 225 yards and a 52.5 passer rating and looked rattled in the second half. Despite his struggles, Singletary said he never considered removing him from the game. "I do want you to understand that Alex is our quarterback and at no time did I think of putting David Carr in the football game," Singletary said.

Injuries: Ted Ginn suffered a left knee strain; Chilo Rachal had a shoulder stinger and Manny Lawson had a rib contusion.

-- 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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