Around the NFC West: 49ers' mental side

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are getting beat mentally, not physically. The Chiefs might have beaten them on both fronts, but the mental aspect has certainly come into play during close defeats to New Orleans and Atlanta. The 49ers need to play smarter. They also could -- and will get -- some help from their schedule. The team plays only one game in another team's stadium between Monday and Nov. 29 at Arizona.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Roddy White felt confident he could force another fumble because, in his words, the 49ers did not know better. The 49ers have not played smart this season and it has cost them victories.

Also from Brown: The 49ers didn't really threaten downfield on offense.

More from Brown: a D-plus grade for Alex Smith.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says rookie Taylor Mays played every snap against the Falcons even though Reggie Smith appeared to be ahead of Mays on the depth chart following Michael Lewis' abrupt departure from the team. Playing Mays over Smith and even Lewis made sense from a long-term standpoint because Mays projected as the starter eventually. The fact that Mays seemed to play well right away comes as a bonus and further marginalizes Lewis. Mays: "You can take all the reps you want in practice, but until you really play in the game, it's a different feel. Toward the end of the game, I calmed down. I feel really confident right now, going into next week and going into the rest of the season."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time since Mike Martz was coordinator. I had not realized that. Meanwhile, Nate Clements left the locker room without fulfilling his league-mandated media responsibilities (NFL policy requires "all" players to be available after games, and violators can be fined). Clements' interception and lost fumble late in the game were pivotal plays. Maiocco: "Embattled 49ers coach Mike Singletary did not blame Clements. Instead, he concluded it was a matter of (Roddy) White making a 'great play.'" More importantly for the 49ers, key players said they were prepared for this game despite the distractions of the past week.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says White has experience forcing the 49ers' cornerbacks to fumble following interceptions. He did it to Dre Bly last season at Candlestick Park. Barrows: "Every defender, especially a 10-year veteran, should have been thinking 'slide down' given the field position and the clock and especially given what happened to Bly -- vilified for his bone-headed showboating last year -- last season. Even if Clements had cruised into the end zone, the Falcons would have had 1:20 and all three time outs with which to try for a game-tying touchdown. Turning the ball over to the offense would have at the very least forced the Falcons to burn all three time outs and given the 49ers a four-point advantage."

Also from Barrows: Singletary says he never thought about switching quarterbacks.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Smith graded himself more harshly than Singletary graded the quarterback.

Also from Branch: a report card featuring a "C" grade for Smith.

More from Branch: Mays was part of a secondary that helped limit Matt Ryan to a 67.3 passer rating. Ryan, like most good quarterbacks, was still able to make plays late in the game.