49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

November 11, 2008
Mystery solved: Martz thought ball was on half yard line

Mike Singletary started peeling back the layers from the onion that was yesterday's 29-24 loss to Arizona, beginning with the biggest question of all: Why, with four seconds and no timeouts, do you call a fullback draw, a play fundementally designed to pick up a half yard? Well, because offensive coordinator Mike Martz and the rest of the team mistakenly thought the ball was on the half yard line instead of the 2 1/2 until it was too late to call in another play. Singletary today blasted the communication by the game officials, who after reviewing whether Frank Gore was down by contact on a second-down run, moved the ball back to the 2 1/2 yard line. "No one came to our sideline and said the ball would be moved. Someone needs to say that," said Singletary, who added that he has not yet sought clarification from the league office. "It's not the thing I need to hear -- 'It's on us (the league),'" he said. "I don't need to hear that."

Barrows did a little sleuthing on this. Following Jason Hill's last catch, the ball is at the 1 1/2 yard line. After Shaun Hill spikes it, it's at the 1 1/2 yard line. Immediately after Gore's run, an official rushes in and marks Gore down at the 1 1/2. Following the review, the ball is placed at the 2 1/2. So if anything, Martz would have thought the ball was at the 1 1/2 yard line, not the half yard line ...

Singletary said that the fact that the play clock began when the official set the ball, and not when it was snapped, added to the confusion. Singletary said the clock started as the official who spotted the ball was backing away from the ball. He said Martz's play was intended to have a wideout come in motion across the backfield but because the clock was running there was no time to run that element of the play.

Of course, the interim head coach did not heap all of the blame on the officials. The fact that the team wasted 23 crucial seconds before Shaun Hill could spike the ball, according to Singletary, "That's on us. That's on me as a head coach. And I will take that." Singletary said Martz had a very specific personnel group he wanted on the field and that the whole transition should have taken 10 seconds. Why, he was asked does a team need a specific personnel group when they merely intended to spike the ball? "I don't know that," Singletary said. "I think it was one of those situations where you thought it was going to go smoothly, a lot more smoothly than it did."

If you're curious about how the relationship between Singletarty and Martz is unfolding, Singletary said he was entirely on board with the type of plays martz was calling at the end of the game. "We're on the same page. We're trying to be on the right page." he also said that the moment caught on camera in which Martz seems to strenuously object to Singletary's decision to go for a fourth-and-one field goal was typical head coach-offensive coordinator stuff. "The offensive coordinator always wants to go for it. I learned that rather quickly."

By the way, there's a chance that we'll be able to talk to Martz (you know, the guy around whom these questions swirl) later today. Martz usually speaks to the media every other week. Fingers crossed ....

Singletary said the most serious injury Monday occurred to receiver Josh Morgan, who hurt his groin. He did not have a timetable on Morgan's return.

-- Matt Barrows

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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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