Liotta: After solid start, 49ers left to pick up the pieces 

What a great weekend to forget about the 49ers. The bye gives Niners fans seven more days to rekindle the optimism generated by the three months leading up to last Sunday.

For all the praise Mike Singletary has received — and I have doled out my fair share — he deserves a few lumps for the debacle that was the game against the Falcons. Simply put, after that 45-10 beating, it’s fair to question any progress the 49ers appeared to have made.

Or what Singletary has actually instilled in his players.

Dre’ Bly? Inexcuseable behavior. A face-saving apology? Won’t be accepted here. He’s a veteran whose side was getting blasted when he made an insignificant interception, struck a pose, then had the ball stripped into a turnover — laughable.

And what about Josh Morgan? To me, he began to coast into the end zone at the end of what wound up a 61-yard pass play late in the first quarter. Sure, the Niners scored three plays later, but Morgan’s cruise-control finish was another sign of me-first football.

Nate Clements had a tough day trying to keep up with Roddy White, while Isaac Bruce did not make even a single catch. Both gave professional efforts. They just got beat.

And what about Singletary himself? He deserves plenty of blame. His staff was outcoached by their Atlanta counterparts who implemented a defensive scheme that befuddled the Niners the whole way.

Singletary also deserves a personal­ hit for poor use of first-half timeouts, which left him unable to challenge what may have been the game-turning play.

Down 21-10, the 49ers could have made the case the ground caused the fumble when Delanie Walker was separated from the football returning a second-quarter kickoff. Three plays later, the Falcons made it 28-10 and the rout was on.

If the Niner nation can get all this out of its system, the 49ers will simply be 3-2 and atop the NFC West Division.

Now that’s something to build on.

The Giants, meanwhile, hoping to build on the 88-win season that was 2009, began the project by bringing back general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy with two-year extensions.

I thought Bochy had a great year. This team really enjoyed playing together, and it was obvious the manager pushed a lot of the right buttons.

I thought Sabean had an only so-so 2009. His preseason moves to bolster the bullpen were clever and cost-effective. Randy Johnson was a push. His midseason additions of Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez were blatant busts down the stretch.

Sabean and the Giants continue to have a big bat issue. His lineup needs one. His budget, strangled tighter yet again by the noose known as Barry Zito’s contract, does not appear to have the waggle room to purchase the quality hitter he needs.

Once again, a Giant dilemma.

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

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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