We're going to do it. Unbelievably, we're going to do it.

Dre Bly just snuffed out the Vikings' last chance, and we've just locked up our biggest win in years. The defense, once again, has been heroic. Since his early 35-yard burst, Adrian Peterson, the so-called "Dominator," has gotten squat. And Brett Favre, dealing with plenty of rush and coverage, has a dismal rating of 63.6. The defense hung in there through our offense's early struggles, it delivered the game-changing play at the end of the first half, and it's shut out the Vikings' offense ever since.

More excitingly, our own offense has finally arrived. After as bad a first quarter as we've probably ever seen—four three-and-outs—something just clicked. Was losing Frank Gore a blessing in disguise? Seems crazy, but it definitely forced us to open it up and go to the air. Shaun Hill at first looked overwhelmed, as the Vikes continued to crowd the line. But then he made a play, an 11-yard pass to Vernon Davis. And then, on fourth and one—we passed on fourth and one—he made another, an 11-yarder to Josh Morgan. And then, after still another pass for the touchdown, it was like a light bulb went on. As tends to happen when the pass is working, the Vikings' defense started to loosen. All of a sudden, the offensive line was standing strong (or stronger, at least), Hill was able to step into his throws, and we finally saw it. Hill to Isaac Bruce for 10. Hill to Davis for 31. Hill to Bruce for 28. And Hill to Davis for 20 and the winning TD. Hill's got a rating of 94.6, he's conjured up two beautiful scores, and he's given his critics a defining eff-you.

In one of the toughest venues in sports, against a legitimate Super Bowl contender, we have seized it. Not only are we about to be three-and-oh, for the first time in 11 years, but we're about to make believers out of everyone around. The skeptical fans. The ignorant media. Finally, after all the misery, after all the mockery, the top story in the NFL is going to be the official return of the 49ers.

It's right there.

All we need is a first down.

And make no mistake; we need a first down. There's still about two minutes left, and the Vikes have all their timeouts. Sure, let's make 'em use 'em, but without a first down they'll have plenty of time. Our defense already won us this game; it's no fair asking 'em to win it again.

This is the scenario Mike Singletary envisioned. We've got the lead, we've got the ball, and now it's time to win. This game is ours for the taking. If we're for real, let's take it.

First down, Glen Coffee over the right guard for two. Okay, fine. Would've liked a few more yards, but nothing wrong so far. Second down, Coffee up the middle for two more. Okay, another positive play, setting up a manageable third-down. Sure, we're a staggering oh for 10 on thirds so far, but our offense is humming. There's just one thing: we must be aggressive. We've been passing so well; how about a nice, safe slant? Or maybe a play-action fake and a quick out? Even a run might work, but only if it's something different; how about Davis on a reverse?

Only one thing is certain. Another standard run won't cut it.

So here we go. Third down.

Coffee, again. For two, again.

Unbelievable. In that moment, the game was there to be won. And we didn't even give ourselves a chance.

I think, deep down, we all knew what would happen next. There are certain iron-clad rules in life. You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. And you never, never, give Favre a second chance to beat you.

Sure, the defense might've gone a little soft—a little "preventative"—on the fateful drive. And yeah, a blitz might've been especially nice on the fateful play. But would anything really have mattered? We're Niner fans, and we've been watching this guy crush our souls, one way or another, for the better part of 15 years. As dramatic as this one seemed, as desperately as we were praying to avoid it, and yes, as truly devastating as it felt, the ending was, in many ways, just more of the same.

Then again, there was one significant difference. In most of those classic Niner-Packer games—with the notable exception of The Catch II, of course—Favre just blew us out. As good as we were in those days, we never had the game in our grasp, only to give it away. Although no one would confuse this year's team with those earlier versions, this is the team that had it in hand. This is the team that should've won. It just didn't summon the necessary guts.

Which brings us back to the paradox of Mike Singletary.

I love almost everything about the guy. His passion, his leadership, but most of all his toughness. A great head-coach is a tower of strength. When everything's turning to shit out there, a great head-coach is immovable, unshakable. By that standard, Singletary could be one of the greatest ever.

There's just one thing wrong.

Singletary's toughness—undoubtedly real—is wholly at odds with his offensive philosophy. Of all the adjectives you could apply to our final series, the best ones—gutless, timid, limp—are all the opposite of tough.

At least to me, his image won't survive much more of this. And he isn't likely to change. Just listen to his review of that last series: "What we did, I totally support. What we did, we thought would give us the best chance to keep the ball. It didn't happen. If we [had] won the game, we wouldn't be talking about it."

His last statement—that if our defense had held we wouldn't be talking about this—is dubious. But his earlier statement—that he thought the three runs "would give us the best chance to keep the ball"—is ridiculous. Did he really think our third-down play, of all the plays we could've called, was the play that gave us "the best chance" to gain six yards? Unfathomable. My friends, there's coachspeak, there's spin, and then there's an outright lie. And that, my friends, is an outright lie.

The truth is that Singletary was scared. The Vikings were waiting to die, and our coach was afraid to go for the kill. He chose to give Brett Favre—of all people, Brett Favre—another life, and he paid for it with the game, in the most wrenching way imaginable.

But don't expect him to change. Don't expect him to take the reins off Jimmy Raye, who could do so much more. Instead, expect more talk of toughness. Expect Mike Singletary to continue to do his best impression of the great and powerful Oz.

One more heartbreak like Sunday's, though, and we just might pay attention to that man behind the curtain.