Following today's loss, which for all intents and purposes was a playoff killer, Mike Singletary cited the 49ers' screw ups. His phrase, not mine. There was the botched punt return, Frank Gore's fumble and Vernon Davis' four drops, one of which occurred in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
To me, however, the biggest error was giving Matt Hasselbeck one more chance at the end. Given that opportunity, Hasselbeck hit receiver Deon Butler for 32 yards down the sideline. It was Hasselbeck's longest throw of the game and Butler's only catch of the day. They really hadn't done squat until that point. But the play set up the game-winning field goal as time expired.
You can't argue with Singletary's aggressive approach to start the game. And with under a minute remaining, it was nice to see Singletary and Jimmy Raye leave it to Alex Smith to try and win it. But when you're that deep in your own territory and when the opposition has two timeouts, you can't be reckless.
If Smith and the 49ers didn't hit a big play early in that drive, the wise thing would have been to try to run out the clock or at least force the Seahawks to use a time out. "In every situation, we just found a way to screw it up," Singletary said. "It's very unfortunate. Championship teams can't do that. Teams that talk about going to the playoffs can't do that."
Given the opportunity, Singletary declined to criticize the officiating in Sunday's game. But it was clear he wasn't happy. Asked about Keith Smith, the seldom-used cornerback who gave up a decisive 32-yard pass play to receiver Deon Butler at the end of the game, Singletary responded by saying, "The guy that got pushed off on by No. 11 (Butler)?"
Asked if there was an offensive pass interference penalty that should have been called, Singletary backed off. "The referees didn't fumble," he said. "The referees didn't miss tackles. So I'm not going to go there. That really wasn't the game. I thought that we could overcome some of the calls that were there."
His players weren't as forgiving. The 49ers seemed to be particularly upset about two non-calls, one involving tight end Delanie Walker at the goal line and another on a pass attempt to receiver Michael Crabtree. Brandon Jones also was flagged for offensive pass interference in the fourth quarter. "It was a ticky tacky call," Jones said. "Especially since none went our way, you know? Crabtree was being held all day, being tackled all day."
Hoping to pump a little life in their flagging return game, the 49ers decided to add a little razzle dazzle to their punt returns. What result, however, was a momentum-changing turnover. After grabbing control of the game in the first quarter, the 49ers gave it right back to Seattle when a designed handoff between returner Arnaz Battle and Jones resulted in a fumble. The Seahawks recovered it at San Francisco's 13-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hit receiver Deion Branch for a seven-yard touchdown and what threatened to be a 49ers blowout became a tie game.
After the game, Singletary said it was something the 49ers had practiced all week. Battle and Jones, one of the team's fastest players, each have returned punts this season, although they hadn't been back as return men at the same time as they were Sunday. Battle faked a handoff to Jones the first time the Seahawks punted.
"They were getting pressure down there," Jones said. "There was a (Seahawks player) who was running, and he disrupted it. But it was still my fault. I felt (Battle) did a good job. He was stumbling. I still should have recovered the ball. We practiced it. I screwed it up."
Quarterback Alex Smith recorded the first 300-yard passing game of his career, finishing with 310 yards. Meanwhile, Vernon Davis set a franchise record with his 10th touchdown catch, the most ever in one season for a 49ers tight end. Ted Kwalick and Brent Jones each had nine.
Brandon Jones alternated with Jason Hill as the team's third wide receiver. Jones' first catch of the year, for seven yards, was called back because of a penalty. On the next play, however, he made a nice 18-yard catch on a pass that was thrown behind him by Smith.
Linebacker Patrick Willis had perhaps his best game of the season. He finished with 16 tackles, two of them behind the line of scrimmage.
-- Matt Barrows