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December 26, 2010
Sunday's loss was the summation of a miserable season

High drama; low yield. That's both the story line of the 49ers' 2010 season and Sunday's playoff-killing loss to the Rams, a game in which the 49ers came out flat, played in a fog and ultimately fell 25-17.

Afterward, a somber team president Jed York said he was most disappointed that the 49ers did not rise to the magnitude of the game - the team's most important in eight seasons - and said he would be seeking a general manager and a quarterback in the offseason. He said Trent Baalke, the team's vice president of player personnel, would be in the mix for the general manager position.

As for head coach Mike Singletary, whom cameras caught in another ugly, in-game screaming match with a quarterback, it seems the question is not if he'll be fired but when he'll be fired. York said he wasn't sure whether Singletary even would coach Sunday's now meaningless finale against the Cardinals. "We want to take our time before we make any decision like that," York said. "You don't want to make an emotional decision right now after the game."

The 49ers' season has been a jumble of mistakes, penalties and turnovers, and that theme continued Sunday despite the fact that the 49ers had three extra days to prepare. They committed seven penalties in the first half alone, none bigger than the first, a pass interference call against cornerback Nate Clements on the seventh play of the game.

On the play, Rams receiver Danny Amendola took an end around and dropped back for a deep pass. Because his back was turned, Clements had no idea the pass was underthrown and that safety Reggie Smith was lining up for an easy interception. Clements crashed into receiver Danario Alexander in the end zone, negating Smith's interception and giving St. Louis the ball at the 1-yard line. On the next play, running back Steven Jackson plowed into the end zone to give St. Louis an early 7-0 lead.

The play seemed to open a dam of errors. Starting quarterback Troy Smith dropped a snap in the end zone that led to a safety. Late in the game, cornerback Shawntae Spencer allowed a 46-yard pass down the sideline to Alexander and then stunningly never touched-down Alexander who got up and ran into the end zone. Only the fact that a sliver of Alexander's foot was out of bounds -- and the touchdown called back -- saved Spencer the embarrassment of having the sequence replayed ad nauseum.

Instead, the clip that promises to be replayed over and over this week is one of Singletary and Troy Smith tearing into each other on the sideline. It's a scene 49ers followers should be familiar with by now. Two years ago in St. Louis, Singletary nearly yanked then starting quarterback Shaun Hill from the game only to have Hill argue his way back in. Earlier this year against Philadelphia, Singletary and Alex Smith engaged in similar sideline theatrics.

"Through the course of the game, obviously, you want to win, and the competitive natures definitely come out," Troy Smith said. "And you know, obviously the passion that coach Singletary has for the game, the passion that I have for the game, combined."

Troy Smith remained in the game following the exchange, but he failed to lead the 49ers to a score in the second half and Singletary ultimately pulled him in favor of Alex Smith. Afterward, York said he wasn't disappointed as much in the coaching theatrics as he was the team's preparedness. York noted that the 49ers only really had two good plays, Crabtree's touchdown and Ted Ginn's 78-yard punt return, in the first half.

"I mean, we come into a game like this and we look inept on offense in the first half," York said. "We didn't get anything done except for two plays that, really, players made. ... We aren't where we need to be."

-- 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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