Liotta: Singletary’s defining moment

After a postgame tirade, a late-night team meeting — on a Sunday — after Week 1, I can’t wait to see what happens next in the suddenly-not-so-rosy world of Niners football.

Over-reaction? Aw, come on. The 49ers went into their first game considered a potential division winner. And emerged with everybody wondering if they can call a play in 25 seconds or less.

Welcome to the most important game of Mike Singletary’s coaching career.

When the 49ers take the field Monday against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, his staff will be under the harshest scrutiny to date.

To be honest, the ability to call a play is so basic to a coaching staff nobody even considers it a factor worth assessing. Not anymore.

Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports did a terrific job of outlining what allegedly went wrong last week in Seattle. And remember these were the Seahawks, who figure to be marginal at best this year.

Last year, Jimmy Raye called the plays through offensive assistant Jason Michael. Apparently, Raye’s version of calling a play, Cole reported, involves the qualifier of, “Aw, you know what I mean.” And Michael did.

Against the Seahawks, Raye called the plays through quarterback coach Mike Johnson, who apparently needed a moment to figure out what Raye was calling. That moment cost the 49ers timeouts, momentum and basically a football game.

“I know Jimmy [Raye] understands that he has to do a better job of getting [the play] in,” Singletary said earlier this week, “and we’re going to work on it this week and get it where it needs to be. But that’s just something that we will work out.”

They’d better, because suddenly it doesn’t matter whether Alex Smith has enough time to execute a play. Frank Gore is neutralized, Vernon Davis stymied and Michael Crabtree becomes a nonfactor if there’s no play to run.

And, Mike, don’t go using the Saints as an excuse Monday if there’s another beat-down. They’re good but … The Saints, who are at their best on an indoor carpet, are playing outdoors and on the road. They will be ripe for the picking.

Last year, the Saints gave up 143 points in seven games played outdoors — and that includes games at Tampa Bay and Buffalo, who both had miserable offenses.

There can be no excuses this time around.

If the 49ers get beat in a well-played, hard-fought football game, that might be acceptable under rosier circumstances.

Unfortunately, with the improved Kansas City Chiefs, the tough Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelpia Eagles in line to play the 49ers the next three weeks, there’s no telling how far the downward spiral will be if the Niners lay another egg on Monday night.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

Game Day

49ers (0-1) vs. Saints (1-0)

WHEN: Monday, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Candlestick Park
TV: ESPN
RADIO: KNBR (680 AM), KSAN (107.7 FM)

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