SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - One play away from being 3-0, the San
Francisco 49ers now have a better idea of what needs to be done to
take them to the next level after Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The 49ers were on the verge of an upset victory before the Vikings scored on a 32-yard touchdown pass with two seconds remaining to emerge with a 27-24 victory and remain unbeaten.
"We'll learn from it, and what I learned from (Sunday) is we have to play 60 minutes, and that is the bottom line when you are on the road," coach Mike Singletary said Monday. "And we have to get better at finishing."
The 49ers also have to get better on offense.
With their defense keeping quarterback Brett Favre and the Minnesota offense under wraps and their special teams providing a touchdown on a blocked field goal return, San Francisco had a 24-20 lead and the football near midfield after the two-minute warning.
But three plunges into the line by rookie running back Glen Coffee led to a punt, and Minnesota drove 80 yards for the winning score in the final 89 seconds without any timeouts.
Coffee was playing in place of Frank Gore, who re-injured his right ankle on his only carry in the first quarter and did not return. Gore, who's third in the NFC with 241 yards rushing, had a MRI exam late Monday afternoon and his status for this week's game against the St. Louis Rams is uncertain.
Without Gore, the 49ers were 0 for 11 on third-down conversions, including a two-yard run by Coffee on third-and-6 that allowed Minnesota to get the ball back one final time at the end of the game.
"We expect much better of ourselves as a team," said Coffee, who rushed for 54 yards on 25 carries while San Francisco was limited to 246 yards on offense. "That should never happen no matter the circumstances of the game. It's definitely something we won't let happen again, because it's embarrassing for our offense. We all had things we could have done better, and it cost us our victory."
The bitter defeat still lingered in the San Francisco locker room Monday, but the 49ers were looking forward to getting back to business this week in the NFC West.
San Francisco (2-1) began the season with victories over the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers can make it a clean sweep through the first half of their divisional schedule at home this week against the winless Rams.
"We're not going to forget this loss," Coffee said. "It hurts and we'll let it hurt. But if anything, it gives us more to work for and gives us a little more wood in the fire. It's something we're not going to dwell on."
Despite missing an opportunity to establish themselves as an early front-runner in the NFC, the 49ers are looking at the big picture as they attempt to end a franchise-worst string of six consecutive losing seasons.
San Francisco had a four-game winning streak dating to last season snapped despite another solid effort by quarterback Shaun Hill, who threw two touchdown passes to tight end Vernon Davis.
The second of those scoring passes gave San Francisco its final lead with 8:12 remaining, but Hill attempted only one pass the remainder of the game. He was 5 of 8 on third-down pass attempts, but none of those completions went for a first down.
"It would have been nice to have left there 3-0, but we didn't get it done," Hill said. "We turn the page on that and move forward. The only thing in my notebook right now says St. Louis. It's not easy, but the good teams bounce back. We'll find out a lot about ourselves if we can put this behind us and move forward, and I think we can."