49ers replay: Which team shows up in Detroit?

One week after the 49ers' worst half of football in club history, they responded with an impressive defensive performance against the Vikings. Now, they head back to the Midwest this week to face the Lions, and there is little indication which version of the 49ers will make the trip. Certainly, the 49ers have experienced more than their share of problems on the road this season.

The 49ers have a chance to generate some momentum against the Lions, as San Francisco is coming off a grind-it-out 9-3 victory over the Vikings. That victory came one week after a thoroughly humiliating 41-10 loss to the Bears in which the 49ers trailed 41-0 at halftime.

"We've been in the NFL long enough to know it's a week-to-week situation," 49ers defensive coordinator Billy Davis said after his unit's best performance of the season. "As bad as last week was and as good as this week was, we got to keep right on track. We got back on track and now this is something to build on."

The 49ers figure to be challenged once again this week, as Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz will undoubtedly go after the San Francisco pass defense. The 49ers have braced for teams' offensive attacks by playing a lot more seven-man fronts and devoting a lot of attention to their pass coverage.

With the 49ers reeling, the defense turned to some of its leaders to get the club going in the right direction. Defensive lineman Bryant Young, the senior member of the squad, said the blowout losses the 49ers have sustained served as a wake-up call to some of the younger players on the team.

"When things aren't going your way, that's when people start falling off the bandwagon," Young said. "We stayed the course with what we believe in. Eventually, when you do that, things are going to starting going your way. It's going to turn for us."

The 49ers made some changes to the defense, as starting inside linebacker Jeff Ulbrich was replaced by Brandon Moore, who registered 14 tackles, a sack and three quarterback hurries against the Vikings. Also, hard-hitting safety Keith Lewis started in place of Mike Adams and also played well.

The 49ers were able to generate a steady pass rush on Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson, something they will have to do this week against the Lions' Jon Kitna, who has the Lions heating up in the passing game.

"We didn't do too many fancy things," Young said. "We played some simple defenses and understood what we did in those defenses. There was a lot of responsibility put on us to take ownership of it. There have been some changes made, but the most important change was a change in attitude. It's a process but it's changing."

The 49ers now use a lot of different players on defense, and even some players who have been recently demoted are still playing important roles in the substitution packages. Ulbrich played third downs, and Adams and safety Tony Parrish both played key roles in the victory.

Veteran linebacker Derek Smith is making a big adjustment, standing more upright in his stance to compensate for a problem with a muscle in his left eye that restricts his field of vision. Smith has battled the condition for the entire season, and it has been reflected in his play, 49ers coach Mike Nolan admitted last week.

PLAYER NOTES
--- RB Frank Gore gained just 41 yards on 19 carries, but he received praise from Nolan for sliding inbounds at the end of an 11-yard run late in the game to keep the clock running as the 49ers held on the victory over the Vikings. Gore also caught a team-high five passes for 36 yards and was credited by Nolan for his perseverance in continuing to bang away at the Minnesota defense.
--- QB Alex Smith completed 13 of 21 passes for 105 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Smith's passer rating was just 54.7. The club did not ask much of him, as his job against the Vikings was to manage the game after the 49ers moved ahead in a tight, low-scoring battle.
--K Joe Nedney made all three of his field-goal attempts, hitting from 25, 30 and 51 yards - making his longest kick twice after the play was called dead on his first 51-yarder. He also converted a successful surprise onside kick. Nedney received a game ball from Nolan afterward.
--P Andy Lee had an exceptional game as the 49ers won the battle of field position. Lee averaged 48.5 yards on six punts, with a net average of 42.2.


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