NFL

49ers need help from others to save playoff hopes

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)

The San Francisco 49ers have hit the desperation stage of their season.

If Seattle and St. Louis both win this weekend, the Niners' slim playoff hopes are officially gone. Because, the Seahawks and Rams face off in the final game of the season in Seattle - which means one of them would wind up with eight victories and the division title in the awful NFC West.

Even if San Francisco (5-9) wins at St. Louis next Sunday and home against Arizona on Jan. 2, it might not be enough. The 49ers need help.

There has been plenty of speculation that 49ers owner John York and his team president son, Jed, will be searching for a new head coach come January. Coach Mike Singletary still has two years left on his contract.

''My future depends on the St. Louis game that we've got coming. To me, I take it one week at a time and I don't really worry about all the other things,'' Singletary said Friday. ''But right now my focus is on St. Louis.''

And, after an embarrassing 34-7 loss at San Diego on Thursday night, Singletary is contemplating yet another quarterback switch from Alex Smith back to Troy Smith.

Alex Smith was sacked six times and San Francisco was outgained in total yards 374-192.

Nobody was in much mood to talk about it Friday. In fact, of five players stopped during the open locker room period - many had already headed home on a rainy afternoon following meetings - all declined comment.

''I ain't talking today,'' linebacker Takeo Spikes said. ''Everything I had to say I said yesterday.''

After the game, he vented, ''The most frustrating thing is to know we had an opportunity to be sitting in the driver's seat after tonight and we (poured) it down the drain.''

Spikes and fellow linebacker Patrick Willis each played with bulky black casts on their broken right hands, with Willis coming off surgery three days earlier on his hand. Neither did further damage to their hands, Singletary said.

Spikes needed assistance removing his uniform and socks after the game.

That's the least of the 49ers' troubles, however. There could be major change in a hurry if San Francisco's playoff drought reaches an eighth straight season, even after Jed York declared his franchise would rebound from an 0-5 start to win the division and make the postseason.

Singletary on Friday defended Alex Smith, saying, ''Under the situation, under the circumstances, I thought Alex handled himself about as well as he could.''

After the game, Singletary said it would have been ''horrific'' to replace Smith with Troy Smith during Thursday night's game. Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner who was well behind upon joining the Niners in September, started five games in place of Alex Smith from Oct. 31-Dec. 5 and went 3-2. At first, he replaced the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick after Alex Smith separated his non-throwing left shoulder at Carolina on Oct. 24, but Singletary stuck with him even after Alex Smith was healthy.

Alex Smith regained his starting job and led the 49ers past Seattle 40-21 on Dec. 12.

Still, Singletary insists he will - as always - name his quarterback based on who he believes best puts San Francisco in position to win. One of Troy Smith's victories came in a 23-20 overtime win against the Rams at home Nov. 14. He threw for 356 yards and a touchdown on 17-for-28 passing.

That could play a factor in the decision who to start this time against St. Louis.

''I just think that right now as we look at the film and look at the things we want to do, we'll look at the Rams when we played them the first time,'' Singletary said. ''The Rams were a little bit different and I think we're a little bit different. There are some things that have changed since then and we'll deal with it accordingly.''

Notes: The other 49ers injuries from Thursday were LB Travis LaBoy (knee sprain), RB Anthony Dixon (ankle sprain), S Dashon Goldson (dislocated finger), LB Manny Lawson (thigh contusion), CB Nate Clements (ankle). Singletary said the team might look to add a running back this coming week considering Dixon and DeShawn Wynn (dehydration) both had their issues Thursday - though he expects each player to be fine.

Tagged: 49ers, Takeo Spikes, Alex Smith, Troy Smith

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