49ers look to finish strong behind Singletary

The 49ers have one game remaining in the season -- one final chance for coach Mike Singletary to make a case for being a permanent part of the team's solution in 2009 and beyond.

The 49ers have responded since Singletary was promoted to head coach on Oct. 20. The Niners own a 4-4 record after Singletary took over after Mike Nolan was fired after leading San Francisco to a 2-5 start for the fourth consecutive year.

The Niners can close out the season on a two-game winning streak on Sunday against the Washington Redskins at Candlestick Park. A victory would give Singletary five wins in seven games to close out the season, with both losses coming to teams who have their destiny in their hands to clinch a playoff berth on the final weekend of the season.

The 49ers are coming off an ugly-yet-impressive victory over the St. Louis Rams, giving them a season sweep of their longtime NFC West rival. The 49ers were awful for most of the game, and trailed 16-3 late in the fourth quarter before rallying for a 17-16 victory with two late touchdowns.

The Redskins were eliminated from the playoff race despite beating Philadelphia last week, and the 49ers have been out of the hunt for several weeks. But the 49ers have taken pride in continuing to play as if something big is at stake.

"A victory like this not only adds value to his resume and this organization, but I think it speaks volumes around the league," 49ers veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "The reality is, do we have a chance to go to the playoffs? Most times people see teams that don't have a chance to go to the playoffs, they're not going to play for anything.

"This team is still playing for something because we're building. We plan on going places, and that's what he preaches to us every week."

Initially, Singletary was not given much of a chance of winning the full-time job next season because the organization wanted to hire an offensive head coach. The club believes one of the major failings of Nolan was that he was never able to create any offensive continuity because the 49ers were never able to keep the same coordinator for more than one year.

But Singletary is doing such a good job – and is so well-respected in the locker room – that he has quickly become the popular pick among fans and media alike.

Now, the 49ers have a chance to end the season with some good momentum, coming off an unlikely victory in St. Louis.

"If we would have lost, it would have been a big step backward," 49ers cornerback Walt Harris said. "We want to finish the season strong."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't care if he throws 10 interceptions, but at the end when you can come back and can overcome something like that, it says a lot about your mindset. It says a lot about leadership, and it shows how the team continues to rally around him and believe in him and know he's going to get it done." -- Interim coach Mike Singletary, on QB Shaun Hill turning things around to lead the 49ers to a victory over the Rams.

BY THE NUMBERS: Running back Frank Gore needs 22 yards rushing to become the first player in franchise history with 1,000 yards rushing in three consecutive seasons. Gore has missed the past 2½ games with an ankle injury. He should be ready to face the Redskins on Sunday.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--- QB Shaun Hill overcame a ghastly performance through three quarters to heat up late in Sunday's game. Hill talked his way out of being benched by coach Mike Singletary. He responded with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Hill finished with 216 yards on 18 of 34 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

--- WR Isaac Bruce reached two milestones on Sunday against his former team, the St. Louis Rams. Bruce caught seven passes for 61 yards. His 3-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was the 1,000th catch of his career. Bruce also surpassed Tim Brown and moved into second place on the NFL's all-time receiving list with 14,936 yards. Brown stands at 14,934, while Jerry Rice leads with 22,895 yards.

--- RB DeShaun Foster gained just 36 yards on 12 carries as he made his second straight start in place of injured Frank Gore. Foster also caught two passes for 17 yards.

--- WR Josh Morgan made a leaping 48-yard touchdown catch with 1:22 remaining to provide the 49ers with the winning points. Morgan finished with two catches for 55 yards. Morgan has missed most of the second half of the season with a badly strained groin. The rookie is just now rounding back into shape.

--- CB Tarell Brown recorded his second career interception to clinch the victory for the 49ers in the final minute when the Rams were trying to move into position for a potential game-winning field goal.


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