You could forgive Philadelphia Eagles fans if they thought coach Andy Reid took the red-eye to Arizona and was calling plays Monday night for the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers lost to the Cardinals, 29-24, in a wild and weird game that saw their last drive die at the 1-yard line as time expired.
The 49ers (2-7) had driven to the 1 after a bizarrely entertaining game between two pretty inept and sloppy teams, each wanting to hand the game to the other. The Niners, being good guests, let the hosts win with plays calls at the end that were stupid.
San Francisco, on its frenetic last drive, got to the 1 on a pass from Shaun Hill to Jason Hill. There were 45 seconds left and the Niners were out of time outs. When Shaun Hill spiked the ball, there were 20 seconds left, meaning it took the 49ers 25 seconds to get organized enough to run a spike play; that's inexcusable and gave the Niners fewer options. A reasonably capable NFL offense ought to be able to run a play in 25 seconds, let alone spike it.
On second down, San Francisco ran wide with Frank Gore, who was tripped up and lost a yard, but who came very close to keeping his balance and scoring. Not a bad call, but now there were only four seconds remaining.
Strangely, Gore, their best offensive player, was lined up as a wide receiver for the final play, which every sane NFL fan knew had to be a pass. But the Niners are not the Niners for nothing. For some unfathomable reason, they decided to call a handoff up the middle to Michael Robinson, who had all of six carries this season. He gained no yards, the clock ran out the Cardinals (6-3) all but clinched the NFC West.
The Arizona players were just as stunned as about every 49ers fan that Frank Gore didn't get the ball for that last carry. "I told Frank after the game, he's their best player," Arizona defensive back Adrian Wilson said. "In that situation, you've got to demand the ball. To have him as a wideout, to me, that's not their best play."
No, duh. New 49ers coach Mike Singletary (in his second game as head coach) said the call was made by offensive coordinator Mike Martz; nice way to pass the buck! If so, it's not a surprise. Martz often tries to be clever, like in the 2001 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, where as coach of the Rams, he took the ball out of the hands of their best player Marshall Faulk. Martz's reputation as an "offensive genius" has been undeserved for years and Monday night showed why. Arizona needs to award him with a game ball.