Anyone who has watched the 49ers since Mike Nolan took over has noticed one immutable fact. Almost every single time they have had short-yardage situations, they have failed to get it with power running.
With 40-some seconds remaining in the game, it was a perfect time to call a quick corner fade rout rather than wasting a down, and 20 seconds, to spike the football. Then, you bring in a power-running formation that has failed time and again in goal-line situations in the past few years.
Gore, unable to pound it up the middle, nearly goes in after bouncing it outside on second and goal. Which led to an obvious point: You don't run conventionally again.
Last year, in a woeful game against the Cards, the 49ers trailed late. It had not been a pretty game, but the 'Niners made their way to the goal line with 26 seconds on the clock.
The play: end around. The result: touchdown. This year, against the Eagles, we had 3rd-and-1 in the second and ran it up the gut. Result: No gain. 3rd-and-, against DETROIT, early in the first, rush up the gut with Gore. Result: Loss of one.
In the same game against Detroit, 1st -and-goal from the four yard line turned into 4th-and-1 from the one, thanks to three rushes up the gut. 4th and goal was an end around to Rossum. The result: Touchdown. Against New England, 3rd-and-1, Nolan and company call for a rush up the gut resulting in 4th-and-2.
This is not a power running team. It regularly loses the battle at the line of scrimmage (on both sides of the ball) when it is do-or-die. And there was no reason to think it wouldn't lose it again on that final series.
Michael Robinson didn't come close. Gore only did because he abandoned the original play. There was no excuse for such dismal play-calling. Play action. Bootleg. End-around. All would have been better options in this situation.
Mike Singletary might be criticized heavily for this game, but both he and his staff did a great job, for the most part, for the first 59 minutes and 20 seconds of the game.
However, the final 40 seconds cost him the game and made his road to becoming the permanent head coach a far treacherous one. He's 0-2, but he should be 1-1. The team might bail him out, which could be increasingly more likely with the way the team played tonight, but he missed a huge opportunity for a strong step in that direction.
I've been close to thinking this team has turned it around. I'm right there. Unfortunately, they just cannot get me over that line.