The 49ers, coming off an agonizing 27-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, had not yet packed up and vacated the Metrodome visitor's locker room before they started talking about facing the Rams.
It's not that the Rams are considered such a formidable opponent. After all, the Rams appear to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. Instead, the 49ers wanted to show the resolve for which coach Mike Singletary demanded after losing on Brett Favre's last-second touchdown pass.
"You learn from it and you get ready for the next game," Singletary said. "You get ready for the next opportunity. I think winners let it go. Winners move forward. I think losers sit there and just wallow in it and talk about it all week."
The 49ers missed an opportunity to extend their lead in the NFC West. But they have 13 games remaining on their schedule, and 13 more chances to get to their destination.
"We know this game doesn't break us and we know we're going against a team that's trying to turn it around," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. "They're going to be ready to play. We have to get ready for St. Louis."
It has been a long time since the 49ers faced an opponent that they're expected to demolish. And that's certainly the situation against the Rams, as the 49ers look to make it through the first round of head-to-head matchups against NFC West opponents with a perfect record.
The 49ers have already defeated the Arizona Cardinals, the defending division champions, on the road. They followed that up with a home win against the Seattle Seahawks. That leaves the Rams, who are winless and showing no signs of being a competitive team.
It's the kind of game that the 49ers could easily overlook, coming off a heartbreaking loss and with the playoff contending Atlanta Falcons looming the following week.
"We ain't taking any moral victories," 49ers cornerback Dre' Bly said of the team's near-victory against the Vikings, a team that went to the playoffs a year ago.
"We played hard. We went out there and executed our game plan. Minnesota's a good team. They were able to come away with the win. But we're not going to beat ourselves up about it. We're getting ready for St. Louis. It's not the end of us. We're a good football team. Minnesota is a good football team."
Singletary loudly told his team that he believes a playoff rematch with the Vikings will present itself in January. The 49ers have not had a winning season since 2002, so Singletary is trying to change the culture for an organization that has scuffled the past six seasons.
He is not shy about expressing his expectations for the 49ers this season.
"The only reason we play this game is to win," Singletary said. "The only reason we did all the things we did in training camp is go to the playoffs. This is a good football team we played. I do look to see them again."
Obviously, to remain in position to enter the playoffs, the 49ers must not have letdowns against teams such as the Rams, who are 0-3 and have been outscored 73-24 in those games.
"I'm not worried about it because we're definitely going to bounce back," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. "This team, like Coach Singletary said, is a special team. I know my teammates are going to keep their heads held high and move on and look forward to the next game.
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The 49ers have featured a run-oriented rushing attack that has frustrated some fans. Singletary said he does not mind the "conservative" label with which he has been fitted.
"I have no problem with 'conservative.' If you want to say I'm a conservative guy, that's great. I have no problem with 'exotic.' If you say I'm an exotic coach, that's fine. I have no problem with any other adjective you use. But if you say I'm not a winning coach, then I have a problem."
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Singletary clearly was not pleased with the officiating, most notably the taunting penalty on Shawntae Spencer that kept a Vikings drive alive in the second quarter.
The 49ers appeared to stop the Vikings on a third-and-10 from the Minnesota 45. But Spencer's taunt, which appeared to be on the tame side, drew a penalty that superseded the Vikings' penalty for illegal formation. When asked if Singletary supported Spencer, he answered, "Absolutely."
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Unsigned 49ers draft pick Michael Crabtree appears no closer to accepting the 49ers' five-year, $20 million contract that includes $16 million in guaranteed than the day the organization made the offer in late June.
So what's a kid fresh out of college doing to make ends meet? Marketing agent Mike Ornstein told Sports Business Journal that Crabtree has earned more than $750,000 in endorsements.
"It is not that he doesn't want to play, but he is not under the gun to," Ornstein said.
Crabtree has signed deals with Subway, Jordan Brand, and trading card companies Upper Deck, Topps and Panini America.
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Safety Mark Roman was the nearest defender on the winning Vikings play that featured Brett Favre's last-second touchdown pass to Greg Lewis.
In retrospect, Roman said there's not much he could have done differently to prevent the 32-yard touchdown pass.
"The coverage just broke down and I ended up being the free guy trying to help out," Roman said. "I had a small chance to make a play and I didn't do it. Football's a game of inches and they won by that much."
Singletary said he did not fault Roman for the play, but he also did not absolve him of all responsibility.
"If he had been in position, he would have made a play," Singletary said. "So, no he was not in great position, but the thing is, they just made a football play. There are some times the quarterback throws the ball and the guy is in position to make a play. So that's what happened."
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The 49ers are going to take a long look this week at receivers Brandon Jones and Jason Hill to determine whether they can contribute in Sunday's game. The 49ers have not received a lot of production from their wideouts.
Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle have combined for just 20 receptions for 255 yards in three games.
"There is only so much shaking up you can do," coach Mike Singletary said. "I think the guys are doing everything they can. I think Isaac Bruce is really busting his tail to help our offense. I think Josh is going to continue to get more and more confidence in terms of his ability and being able to explode."
Jones and Hill were both made active for Sunday's game while receiver Michael Spurlock was inactive.
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