Singletary saved 49ers with timely timeout

The game was slowly slipping away and the 49ers desperately needed something to stop the slide. So Mike Singletary made the rather unorthodox decision to call a timeout for no particular reason in the middle of a defensive series late in the third quarter. For no other reason, that is, than that Singletary knew from experience it was exactly what his team – and particularly, his defense – needed.

So, after the Arizona Cardinals had come all the way back from a 10-point deficit and were threatening to take both the lead and game away early in the fourth quarter Sunday, Singletary burned a timeout his team might need later in a tight game and called his entire defensive unit off the field and over to the sideline.

That defensive unit circled around Singletary, and Singletary only.

Singletary obviously knew what to tell defenders that had hung tough all day but appeared to be fading after allowing 116 yards and a touchdown during the third quarter that tied the score 13-13.

"He just told us, ‘Were going to burn this timeout here, because were not going to need it later if we don't stop them,'" defensive end Justin Smith said. "He just basically told us to settle down, get a little poise, and when we go back out there let's get a stop."

And that's just what the 49ers did in a key sequence of their 20-16 comeback victory over the defending NFC champions.

After tying the score with a 69-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter, the Cardinals got the ball right back after a three-and-out by the San Francisco offense and began driving again.

Starting at their own 39-yard line after a San Francisco punt, the Cardinals ripped off first downs on their first two plays to set themselves up with a first down at the San Francisco 37.

Singletary had seen enough. He needed to stop the bleeding and give his defense some time to regroup.

After all, he had been there himself during his former NFL life as a Hall of Fame-bound linebacker.

"It was just about reminding them that I knew where they were," Singletary said. "Sometimes in a game, you're out there and you just feel like there's something inside of you that says, ‘I don't know if I can do this. I don't know I if I have any more left.'

"I wanted to give them a breather. I wanted to kind of calm them, settle them down, and just make them realize and remember who we were and why we were here. And we needed to hold those guys to three points. I knew they could do that, but I felt we needed the timeout."

Given a quick refresher and boost of steadiness and inspiration from their dynamic head coach, the 49ers didn't let the Arizona offense get any farther than the San Francisco 25. The Cardinals had to settle for a 43-yard field goal by Neil Rackers that gave them a 16-13 lead with 14:52 to play.

That stop proved to be huge as the San Francisco offense drove 80 yards in 15 plays on the next series to give the 49ers a four-point lead that held up for the victory.

It held up because the defense, revived and revamped, stopped the Cardinals three times the rest of the way, including a crucial stop on fourth down after Arizona had reached the San Francisco 33 with 1:55 to play.

"I think we all got a lot from that (timeout)," Smith said. "(Singletary) was very poised during the game and lets the players play on Sunday. That's what we all like about him."

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