Martz blames spot, not play calling for Niners' loss

Updated: November 12, 2008, 3:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The way the 49ers lost to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday had some scratching their heads. San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Martz said on Tuesday that the officiating, not the play calling, is to blame.

The Cardinals stuffed Michael Robinson on a run up the middle from the 2½-yard line as time expired, preserving Arizona's 29-24 victory. Martz said the spot of the ball doomed the play.

"It cost us the game," he said, according to CBSSports.com. "We go to the 1 -- or the half-yard line -- then spike the ball when, all of a sudden, officials tell us they're going to look at the replay. While they're looking at it, the ball stays at the 1. So we send in a play. Then, when they make their decision, they move the ball back to the 2 and tell us they're going to start the clock on the official's wind.

"We couldn't change the play. We had to go with what we called. If it would've been at the 1, we would've made it. But they moved it and didn't give us any time. So what are we going to do? If they would've moved it to the 10 we still would've had to run the play that was called. We got screwed because of the spot, first and foremost."

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The review in question happened after Frank Gore was tripped up on second-and-goal from the 1. Without any timeouts, the 49ers spiked the ball to stop the clock, but then officials decided to review whether Gore was down by contact. The replay showed that he was actually down at the 2½, not the 1. But Martz had already made the call for Robinson to dive up the middle.

"Obviously, if we had had time we wouldn't have called that play for that situation," he said, according to the Web site. "We would've called a double fade and passed it. I didn't expect anything like that. We had no recourse. We got screwed every way possible."

Mike Pereira, the league's vice president of officiating, disputed Martz's version. He said that overriding the spike play actually saved the 49ers a penalty. Also, after the review an announcement was made that the ball would be spotted at the 2½. Officials also allowed the 49ers to line up before winding the clock, which had 3 seconds remaining. Finally, it was only third down, theoretically allowing for the 49ers to again spike the ball and call a different play on fourth down.

Although Niners interim coach Mike Singletary accepted all the blame Tuesday, he also wished the officials had made it clear they were moving the ball back 2 yards.

"No one came to our sideline to say the ball was going to be moved," Singletary said. "Someone should do that. There should be some people -- we shouldn't have to stand over there and see the ball is being moved while everything is going on, because we're trying to make the correct [play] call."

He didn't know why officials restarted the game when the ball was ready for play, and not at the whistle.

"The only thing I'd like to have happen as a result of this game, all over the league, is for ... one official to go to one sideline, and one official should come to our sideline and say, 'This is the scenario, this is what's happening,'" Singletary said. "Because we have no idea. We have no clue what's going on. The referee is standing out in the middle of the field and says whatever he's saying, but you can't hear it on the sideline."

Martz never even realized where the ball had been re-spotted for the final play until Tuesday morning, when he learned what happened during a phone conversation with Mike Nolan, the fired 49ers head coach who watched the game on TV.

"I didn't know it was the [2½-yard line] until this morning," Martz said. "I didn't know. I left the stadium thinking we didn't make it from the 1½- or 1-yard line. I couldn't believe we couldn't punch it in from the 1-yard line. I was upset with that. I couldn't see from where I was."

The game left Singletary feeling vaguely cheated -- yet after everything that's gone wrong for the 49ers (2-7) during their six-game losing streak, he wasn't ready to throw blame on anybody outside the club's own training complex.

"I've been told that I should probably go ahead and call the league, but it's the last thing I want to do right now," the interim coach said. "I don't need to hear that, 'Well, that's on us.' I don't really need to hear that, in my mind, because they're not going to change anything. The game's still gone. So, in my mind, I'm going to let it go."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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