Niners notebook: Pressing on back on road

The 49ers' surprising 9-3 victory over the Vikings last week was a bounce-back confidence-booster for a team that has made a habit of getting blown out this season against several of the quality teams it has faced. But coach Mike Nolan wants his club to keep pressing on. The 49ers head back onto the road Sunday, where they have been outscored by an average of 39-12 this season.

"We want to caution against the sigh-of-relief feeling," Nolan said. "I think it's important that we approach this as trying to get back-to-back wins. That's something that we haven't done in a while and we want to get back on track. We have a big challenge ahead of us this week for a lot of reasons, including the fact that we're playing Detroit, who is also coming off a big win."

The Lions, coming off an impressive 30-14 victory over the Falcons, will be another difficult task for the 49ers, who played far-and-away their best defensive game of the season against the Vikings. Detroit ranks sixth in the league in passing yards per game, while the 49ers' defense ranks 26th versus the pass.

The 49ers have experienced all kinds of difficulty on the road, and they are still trying to figure out what has gone so terribly wrong. They are 3-24 away from home since the start of the 2003 season and 1-10 since Nolan took over as coach last season.

"It's all about the approach and your mindset," 49ers defensive lineman Bryant Young said. "How mentally prepared do you have to be when you're on the road? And are you willing to start as fast as you can and be ready to play when that whistle blows? It's a matter of carrying over what you've done on the practice field into the game. You have to look at how we've performed on the road in the past and learn from that."

The 49ers' showed some things on defense they have not done this season in their victory over the Vikings.

The club promoted inside linebacker Brandon Moore to the starting lineup in place of Jeff Ulbrich. They also moved special-teams standout Keith Lewis into a starting role, supplanting Mike Adams.

In previous weeks, the 49ers replaced defensive tackle Anthony Adams with Ronald Fields, and Tony Parrish with Mark Roman.

"Change can be good at times," Young said. "I think you keep guys on their toes. At some point you have to put people on edge. (Lewis) is such a physical guy that he brings that physical attitude to the defense -- Brandon as well. Brandon is an aggressive player. When he sees it, he goes and gets it."

The additions of Moore and Lewis to the starting lineup have given the 49ers a more aggressive defense, something they have clearly been lacking.

"I thought that we tackled better in the game," Nolan said. "I thought a lot of that was due to us just swarming to the ball, getting more players around the ball."

Moore was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Sunday's game. He lined up at inside linebacker, alongside Derek Smith on first and second downs, then moved to defensive end to rush the passer on third downs.

"We just felt that Brandon has been playing well lately, whether it was pass rushing or even when he went in and spelled at linebacker," Nolan said.

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The 49ers might return to the traditional red tops and gold pants that they fashioned until making the change in the mid-1990s. The 49ers wore their throwback jerseys Sunday against the Vikings in a 9-3 victory.

Nolan, whose father coached the 49ers from 1968 to '75, said he would like to see the 49ers change their uniforms back.

"There have been discussions, but we'll see," Nolan said. "The players like the uniform, too. That's the key thing. I think it's a great uniform. It can use a few things here and there. The little guys' stripes look like it wraps around their whole leg. I know the players really like the jersey and the uniform. I like it to, not just because I grew up with it. I like that red."

In order for the 49ers to officially change their uniform, they "must give written notice and details thereof to the league by March 1 of the year prior to the season in which it wishes to change," a league spokesman said.

The request would have to be made 18 months prior to the change becoming permanent, so the earliest the 49ers can change uniforms is for the 2008 season. Nolan said owner John York will ultimately make the decision.

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Linebacker Derek Smith has made some adjustments in his stance in hopes of compensating for a muscle strain in his left eye that has greatly affected his field of vision.

Nolan said that Smith's play this season is not nearly up to the standard that Smith set last season when he was named co-MVP of the team.

"I would have to say it has something to do with it because of your vision," Nolan said. "The eyes are the most important thing to playing every sport -- they really are -- and his vision has been bothered."

Because of the problems with his eye, Smith is unable to move his left eye to see anything up and to the left.

"I'm a little bit higher but I see things better," Smith said. "My vision is fine, but the range of motion (is lacking). The muscle is working at 10-percent efficiency. With the upward range of motion, (my eye) is not really moving."

Smith matched his season low with five tackles in Sunday's win over the Vikings.

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Rookie linebacker Manny Lawson, the No. 22 overall pick in the draft, continues to learn his responsibilities after making the transition from a defensive end in college. Lawson had six tackles against the Vikings. For the season he has not made a lot of big plays, recording two sacks, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback pressures.

"Manny is playing a new position," Nolan said. "He's one of our better players who needs to be on the field. There are some things we do that put him in a better position than others, but at the same time he's a rookie and all rookies are going to look (unsure) at some times because they are wearing a lot of hats."

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Adam Snyder's versatility has been the biggest deterrent to him nailing down a starting job at right tackle, in place of embattled starter Kwame Harris. Snyder was needed at left tackle and left guard when injuries sidelined Jonas Jennings and Larry Allen for extended periods.

Snyder and Harris split time in Sunday's game against the Vikings, and the two will continue to share time in games, Nolan said.

"If anything happened, (Snyder) would be the guy who would go to the other positions," Nolan said. "Right now, he's competing for the spot he is at, but he is also the guy who we need in other roles. It doesn't allow him to say 100 percent, 'I'm this guy,' because if we lost someone else, he'd be the first guy we'd move.

"Even though Kwame can play left and right tackle, Adam is the better left and right guy, as far as the position goes. We would rather have him back up left and play right, so right now that is the way it will continue to work. That is the first game he's played over there, and we'll continue to work him, but during the week (he practices at every position on the offensive line, except center)."


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