A lesson learned in Frisco

By Alex Pavlovic
Updated: December 22, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — The day after the 49ers were officially knocked out of the playoff hunt, coach Mike Singletary felt the need to apologize, but not necessarily for his team’s shortcomings.

Singletary reached out to Alex Smith — who threw three first-half interceptions Sunday in a 27-13 loss to Philadelphia — and let his young quarterback know that he was wrong in challenging him after the game. After watching the game film, Singletary said Smith made “some pretty good throws.”

“I owe him an apology. After looking at it, I have a better perspective,” Singletary said Monday. “I thought Alex did some nice things.”

Singletary felt the offense as a whole didn’t “play very smart at times,” and he highlighted the first interception, a deep pass for Vernon Davis, as a prime example.

“Vernon has to make a better play on that ball,” Singletary said. “I think the ball was there. It’s just one of those situations where Vernon either has to make that play, or he has to stop that (defensive back) from making that play.

“He’s got to help the quarterback.”

Smith’s second interception came when Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel left his man to jump in front of Davis. Singletary didn’t think it was a poor throw. “I can understand why it happened; you just don’t want it to happen,” he said of Smith’s confusion on the play.

The third interception, an overthrow of running back Frank Gore, was put squarely on Smith, but Singletary came away encouraged that his quarterback is still growing with every game.

“I feel very good about his progression. I’m very encouraged by what I have seen in a short amount of time for a guy who has been out of football for a couple of years,” Singletary said. “I’m comfortable with what I’m seeing right now.”

Despite that comfort level, Singletary wouldn’t discuss Smith’s future beyond this season, saying only that he was “looking forward to (seeing Smith) the next two games.”

Smith didn’t feel an apology was necessary but was glad to have the support of his coach.

“It’s encouraging. We’ve got to go out there on offense and take advantage of how supportive he is and prove our growth and development,” Smith said.

Smith had a season-low 42.3 passer rating Sunday and has thrown five interceptions the past two weeks, but he said he remains “more confident than ever.” Like his coach, he’s not going to worry about his status for next season until after this one ends.

“There’s no point right now,” Smith said. “There will be plenty of time for that in the offseason.”

  • San Francisco hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002, a drought Singletary thought would end this season.

    “I’m very frustrated. There are a lot of adjectives, some that I can’t say, that I feel,” Singletary said. “A lot of the pieces are in place and we have worked hard enough, but we just weren’t smart enough for the most part to make (the postseason).”

    Smith, who is looking to finish .500 for the first time in his career, said close losses this season have given the team hope for the future.

    “I do feel like there’s been a bit of a mind-set change, and I think how we match up with other teams has changed,” Smith said. “The last few weeks, we’ve walked away from games knowing what we’re capable of.”

    With this season’s fate decided, Singletary said certain backups might get a series or two to show how they handle themselves. Although some fans might want a look at rookie quarterback Nate Davis, the fifth-rounder said he hasn’t been approached about playing time.