Confusion hits 49ers at worst time again

The 49ers are 3-4 under interim coach Mike Singletary. In two of those defeats, the 49ers experienced some sideline-to-quarterback communication problems that may have been responsible for late-game mixups in defeats that could have turned into victories if the Niners had been able to punch the ball into the end zone at the end of those games.

Just as in the final frustrating seconds of the 49ers' loss last month to the Cardinals, the 49ers experienced more confusion at the worst possible moments Sunday against the Dolphins.

Singletary said quarterback Shaun Hill was able to hear only portions of offensive coordinator Mike Martz's play call through his helmet radio transmitter.

As a result, right tackle Barry Sims was left one-on-one against AFC sack leader Joey Porter, who recorded the fourth-down sack to end the 49ers' hopes. It was Porter's only sack of the game after the Niners had done a good job at keeping him at bay most of the game.

The 49ers had receiver Josh Morgan in the slot to the right with running back Michael Robinson wide right. On the left side, Jason Hill, Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce were bunched tight.

If the formation had been flipped, as Martz had envisioned, Jason Hill would've been able to chip Porter, thus preventing him from using his quickness to take that outside rush.

As it was, Morgan was too far from Sims and Porter to help in any way.

"Shaun called it to the left side, and it should have been to the right side, and it was just a communication breakdown," Singletary said. "It's as simple as that. It would have been great to get it set to the other side, but it didn't happen.

"Instead of that, we got the receivers over here on air, running a route on air. Instead of receivers over here, running routes where you got a chance to get a brush on the guy and slow him down and help Sims have a chance to block the guy."

In the heat of the moment, Hill said he heard the play through his headset – just not all of the play, which created the confusion in the way the 49ers lined up.

"In that situation, I was getting some of it, and I just set it to the other side," Hill said. "I heard bits and pieces and I was able to put it together, I just sent it to the wrong way."


--- QB Shaun Hill continues his solid play, as his passer rating in 6 1/2 games is 91.8. Hill is completing 63.4 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He is doing a good job of getting the ball in the hands of receiver Isaac Bruce, who has come on in recent weeks. Hill finally has played enough this season to qualify for the NFL quarterback rankings, and he debut this week as the league's No. 8-ranked quarterback.

--- QB J.T. O'Sullivan has been relegated to the bench after experiencing a pronounced midseason slump. O'Sullivan threw 11 interceptions and lost six fumbles in the first half of the season -- not including another fumble that resulted in a safety. He has thrown only one pass since being replaced as the starter by Shaun Hill midway through the team's eighth game.

--- RB Frank Gore missed Sunday's game with a left ankle sprain. His availability for this week's game against the St. Louis Rams is also in question. Gore leads the 49ers with 978 yards with a 4.3-yard rushing average. He has six rushing touchdowns. Gore is closing in on becoming the first player in club history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

--- RB DeShaun Foster played well in his first start of the season Sunday against the Dolphins. Foster rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries. But Foster did not get his number called in the fourth quarter, as offensive coordinator Mike Martz called 22 consecutive pass plays to end the game. Foster might get another start this week with starter Frank Gore still nursing an ankle injury.

--- RB Michael Robinson is more of a threat for the 49ers as a pass catcher than a running back. Robinson had four catches for 33 yards against the Dolphins. He had 8 yards rushing on five carries. Robinson sees a lot of action on third downs with Frank Gore out of the lineup because of his ability in blitz pickup. Robinson was named as a second alternate to the Pro Bowl as a special teams player.

--- TE Vernon Davis caught a season-high five passes for 31 yards against the Dolphins. He also carried once for 11 yards. But Davis has been used primarily as a blocker this season. Coach Mike Singletary said Davis is the best blocking tight end he has ever seen. Davis was named as a third alternate to the Pro Bowl.

--- WR Bryant Johnson caught five passes for 41 yards against the Dolphins, as his production has steadily increased since he's gotten healthy in the second half of the season. Johnson is third on the team with 39 receptions for 443 yards and three touchdowns.

--- WR Isaac Bruce is showing he is still an explosive receiver, with a 14.7-yard average on the season. Bruce leads the 49ers with 52 receptions for 766 yards and six touchdowns. On Sunday, he made four receptions on third downs to keep drives alive.

--- WR Arnaz Battle was placed on injured reserve with a mid-foot sprain. He finished the season with 24 receptions for 318 yards in half a season of work.

--- WR Jason Hill is doing a commendable job as the 49ers' slot receiver. Hill has 24 receptions on 34 passes that have been thrown his way this season. Hill has 282 receiving yards with one touchdown.

--- LB Patrick Willis was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team for the second time in two seasons. He was elected as a starter. According to NFL statistics, he ranks third in the league with 121 tackles behind Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson (136 tackles) and Carolina's Jon Beason (122). According to team statistics, Willis is the 49ers' runaway leader in tackles with 159.

--KR/PR Allen Rossum is expected to be available this week to handle return duties after missing three games with an ankle sprain. Rossum has averaged 27.3 yards on 40 kickoff returns, including a 104-yard touchdown. He has averaged 16.0 yards on nine punt returns, which would lead the NFC if he had enough returns to qualify. Rossum was selected as a second Pro Bowl alternate.

--- P Andy Lee is averaging 47.1 yards per punt with a net 37.8 average. A first-team All-Pro and the NFC's punter in the Pro Bowl last season, Lee was named as a third Pro Bowl alternate this season.

Niners Digest Top Stories