PHILADELPHIA ? On several occasions throughout the season, coach Mike Singletary made promises that the 2009 49ers would emerge as a ?special team.?
With two games remaining in the regular season, their best hope is to improve to the definition of mediocrity.
The 49ers? playoff hopes were dashed Sunday, as they committed four first-half turnovers that doomed them in their 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at frigid Lincoln Financial Field.
The 49ers (6-8) are guaranteed a non-winning season for the seventh consecutive year.
And with games against Detroit (2-12) and St. Louis (1-13) in the final two games, anything less than a .500 record would be an extreme embarrassment at the conclusion of Singletary?s first full season at the helm.
?Looking toward the next couple of weeks, realizing that you?re not going to the playoffs, there are a lot of things that are on my mind right now,? Singletary said. ?I need to think more before I talk because there are a million feelings that I have, and it wouldn?t come out right.?
One of the things apparently on Singletary?s mind was holding quarterback Alex Smith accountable for a ?poor performance.? But he also took the opportunity to give Smith his strongest endorsement yet for the 49ers? starting job in 2010.
?He?s capable of playing better than that,? Singletary said of Smith, who threw three first-half interceptions. ?I don?t have any questions about him going forward.
?He?s shown me enough prior to tonight. He had a bad game. Great quarterbacks have bad games. So, no, I don?t have any questions about it.?
Smith completed just 20 of 37 pass attempts for 177 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions against the Eagles, leaders of the NFC East with a 10-4 record. Smith was also sacked three times, and his passer rating was a lowly 42.3.
?Turnovers hurt us tonight, obviously,? Smith said. ?Obviously, not good, statistically speaking. So it?s one game, you just got to improve on it, got to get it fixed, got to get it right. I feel like we?ve made some ground in the last few weeks, and as much as this hurts tonight, we can?t let it set us back from where we want to go.?
This was a rare decisive loss for the 49ers. Six of their eight defeats have been by seven points or fewer.
?I think a lot of guys are taking this loss hard because we really worked very hard this season,? said 49ers running back Frank Gore, who gained 107 yards on 16 carries to come within 58 rushing yards of extending his team-record streak of 1,000-yard seasons to four straight.
?Going back to training camp and the season, you look back and realize that there are a lot of games we should have won. In this league, though, you can?t turn the ball over and make mistakes and win games.?
The 49ers? first turnover was especially critical. Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown jarred the ball loose from tight end Delanie Walker at the conclusion of an 8-yard pass play at the Philadelphia 6-yard line. Cornerback Asante Samuel came up with the fumble recovery.
The Eagles then put together a nine-play, 94-yard drive that culminated on quarterback Donovan McNabb?s 8-yard scramble for a touchdown. The play gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead, and the 49ers never got the gap any closer than a touchdown for the remainder of the game.