Liotta: ‘Stupid’ mistakes are inexcusable

It’s appropriate the Philadelphia Eagles are in town to play the 49ers tonight. In my mind, these are teams linked by disasters.
On Nov. 19, 1978, the Eagles beat the New York Giants despite trailing 17-12 in the final seconds with the Giants in possession of the football.

That was the game Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik attempted a handoff to Larry Csonka, only to fumble the football, which Eagles defensive back Herman Edwards picked up and ran for a game-winning touchdown. All Pisarcik had to do was take a knee, and the Giants would have won.

Last Sunday, the 49ers were beaten despite having the football leading 16-14 in the final minutes. To me, Nate Clements’ fumble is no different than the one Pisarcik has had to live with the last 32 years.

Clements got the Niners the football. All he had to do was take a knee, and the 49ers would have won.

Forgiving all of the Niners’ other sins against the Falcons.

Alex Smith’s two critically bad throws. The offense’s ineffectiveness for most of the middle two quarters. The defense forgetting how to tackle.

“If [the Niners] get the ball down to the [7-yard line], they sit on it, and the game is over,” said Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez after the game.

Niners fans could see the disaster before it happened. It was obvious that Roddy White was going to catch Clements, and the more Clements ran, the more he began waving the football back and forth. The fumble was inexcuseable. Even the fact
Clements was running with the ball was questionable.

Listen, if there weren’t five sideline conversations during the 49ers’ previous possession, saying basically, “If you get your hands on the football, just go to ground,” then chalk up the Niners’ fourth loss of 2010 to another coaching debacle.

Mike Singletary’s response to the play on Monday had me wondering.

“It’s unfortunate that that play had to happen, but we’ll learn from it and continue to go from there,” Singletary said.

Learn? Learn what? Isn’t it a coaching staff’s job to anticipate things and prepare their players to play their best? If that’s what a game plan is supposed to do, what about after the game starts?

To me, it feels as if 49ers exist play-to-play, hoping to adjust in the 25 seconds between those plays. What about thinking two, three plays ahead, and saying, “If this happens, let’s do this!”?

Singletary keeps saying his team is making “stupid” mistakes. He’s right, but when it comes to the 2010 49ers, I am no longer sure where “stupid” begins.

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

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