Singletary's Biggest Mistake Continues to Haunt The 49ers in The Last Minutes

Steven ResnickSenior Writer INovember 20, 2016

Mike Singletary has come under a lot of scrutiny as of late for the San Francisco 49ers' poor play against the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs.

Changes were made in personnel, including the firing of Jimmy Raye and the demotions of Takeo Spikes and Michael Lewis. 

Lewis was enraged with the decision and felt disrespected by the 49ers organization that he decided to leave the team.

So, the 49ers started Taylor Mays instead at the safety position. In the opening sequence of the game, Mays was in on nearly every tackle and made a tremendous special teams play that got the 49ers a touchdown. 

So, the loss of Lewis wasn't felt by the 49ers, and the defense, through the most part, played an incredible game.

Rattling Matt Ryan for 58 minutes of the game, Singletary needs to remind defensive coordinator Greg Manusky the game is 60 minutes long, not 58 minutes. 

For the second time this season the 49ers have been beaten on a last-second field goal, but that continues to be the pattern the 49ers fall into. Get out to a fast start against a good team, get some points on the board, and hope the defense makes enough plays to get the win. 

That philosophy has continually failed as the 49ers against the Atlanta Falcons scored 14 points in the first quarter, but were shut out the rest of the way. There were two big series by the 49ers that cost the team points.

Both times the mistakes were by Alex Smith. One went for an interception that led to a field goal by the Falcons. The other went for intentional grounding and put the 49ers out of field goal range for Joe Nedney.

If Nedney had been able to kick the field goal it would have meant a touchdown was needed for the Falcons to win the game, but instead a field goal was all the Falcons needed. 

One may wonder who the 49ers' biggest mistake is? Alex Smith? No, not Smith although he's up there after today's performance.

It's Greg Manusky, how he still has a job with the 49ers is beyond belief considering the fact that he's left over from the Mike Nolan era. 

To be fair, Manusky has improved the run defense tremendously, but it's the pass defense every year that gets the 49ers in trouble.

There's hardly any improvement in the secondary and the pass rush; even though at times it looks great, it is way too inconsistent. 

On the top defenses in the league, each team has a pass rusher that must be accounted for; if not, that pass rusher gives the quarterback nightmares because he's constantly scrambling trying to get rid of the ball. 

In Manusky's scheme there's pass rusher by committee with Ahmad Brooks and Travis Laboy and that hasn't proved worthwhile this year.

What's amazing though is that the 49ers had Tully Banta-Cain under the direction of Manusky and he totaled just four sacks.

He ended up signing back with his original team the New England Patriots and he recorded 10 sacks last year. 

The lack of sacks isn't even the problem, it's the third down defense, especially in long situations. Against the Falcons, it showed just how bad Manusky truly is.

Instead of going after Ryan, which had been rattling him the entire game, the 49ers used a three-man rush, putting absolutely no pressure on Ryan, who made a throw from his end zone for a 21-yard gain and a first down. 

It looked like the 49ers actually had made a defensive stop on a great play by Nate Clements, who surprised Ryan and stepped in front of a pass, but Clements biggest mistake was that he didn't secure the football. 

As he was trying to make a play to get more yards and a shot at a touchdown, he slowed down waiting for his blockers of Brooks and Patrick Willis, but because of that it allowed Roddy White to get back into the play, punch the ball out, and the Falcons recovered the fumble by Clements.

Basically it was Round 2 for the Falcons as Clements gave the Falcons another shot at winning the game as at that point the 49ers were winning 14-13.

But, the Falcons started from the seven-yard line. After two quick incompletions by Ryan, the 49ers again went back to the soft defense and allowed a 17-yard gain by Harry Douglas. 

That was the beginning of the end for the 49ers as the Falcons marched up the field for the 43-yard game winning field goal with seven seconds left. 

It was nearly identical to the way the 49ers lost to the New Orleans Saints and last year to the Minnesota Vikings.

Against the Vikings, it was a pass that should have been intercepted, but was dropped that could have ended with the 49ers coming out on top. 

Against the Saints it was driving down the field, but giving Drew Brees way too much time to march down the field for a field goal.

Today the defense made a great play, but then made a mind-boggling play by not taking care of the football in a crucial moment of the game. 

If Clements just goes down or runs out of bounds, the 49ers win. Instead, Clements went for a chance to put the game out of reach, but didn't do one thing that should have been on his mind the entire time: secure the football. 

Although Manusky has brought respectability back to the 49ers defense, his approach on third and long situations leaves a lot to be desired. The "bend but don't break" belief continues to fail, and until that is resolved, the 49ers are going to continue to lose games in the last second. 

It's inexcusable to have a team backed up to the three yard line, have a third down and 15 situation, but only have three guys going after the quarterback.

There's a lot that could happen in the end zone, the ball could be fumbled, an offensive lineman could hold, etc...

Yet, when the defense is not coming after the quarterback, it leaves very little room for those kind of mistakes by the offense, especially in the last minute of the game.

The 49ers could be 2-2 right now, but with Manusky's inability to dial up pressure in critical situations, the losses will continue to pile on against good teams.