Unified Niners face rough road to finish

On Oct. 26, interim coach Mike Singletary made a public spectacle out of tight end Vernon Davis. But all's well that ends well between the two key 49ers figures.

After Davis caught a 7-yard pass and was called for unnecessary roughness during a decisive 49ers defeat to the Seattle Seahawks, Singletary removed Davis from the game.

Then, he benched him.

Then, he sent him to the locker room at the start of the fourth quarter.

And, as if that were not enough, Singletary went on a tirade in which he questioned Davis' commitment to the team.

But Davis and Singletary have clearly patched up their differences. As the 49ers head to Texas Stadium to face the Dallas Cowboys, it is Davis who is considered Singletary's biggest vocal supporter in the 49ers' locker room.

"I want coach Singletary around for as long as he wants to be here," Davis said. "I think he's a great coach."

After two games in which Singletary showed his inexperience as head coach, the 49ers put it together last week in a 35-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams. It was the 49ers' third victory of the season and their first since Singletary took over for fired Mike Nolan.

The Niners have a unified look behind their new coach and seem to be a more cohesive team since Singletary took charge and began putting his mark on the team.

The task gets a lot more difficult for the remainder of the season, though. The 49ers' three victories have come against teams with a combined record of 3-23 when they're not facing the 49ers.

On Sunday, the 49ers will face the Cowboys, who are battling for their playoff lives in the rugged NFC East.

Singletary certainly was not apologizing for his first NFL victory, and he was not going to give any credence to cynics who point at the records of the three teams - Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis - the 49ers have defeated this season.

"It's hard to win a game in the NFL," Singletary said. "I don't know about cynics. I really don't try to spend too much time around cynics. For me, we won the game. It's a game you should enjoy, but at the same time be focused and get ready for the next one because one game is one game. We're trying to build something here and that's really all I'm thinking about."

The 49ers finish the season with five games against teams that are still battling for spots in the NFL's postseason.

After the 49ers face the Cowboys (6-4), they play at Buffalo (5-5), at home against the New York Jets (7-3) and then back on the road to Miami (6-4). The 49ers get a rematch against the Rams in St. Louis before closing out the season at Candlestick Park against Washington (6-4).

"I know everybody in this locker room and in this organization is excited about the opportunity at hand," 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill said. "It's a great opponent and it'll be a great test for us."

Singletary said there can be no bigger test for his team than to head out on the road against quality opponents. Although Singletary is not assured of a coaching position next season, he said the experience of playing in difficult environments will be beneficial to the 49ers in the future.

"That's outstanding," Singletary said when asked about the prospect of playing four of their next five games on the road.

"If all the rest of the games are on the road, that's fine with me. We have to go into some tough situations and play football. That's only going to help us get better."

After the 49ers face the Cowboys, they return to the road against the Bills. The 49ers return home Dec. 7 to face the New York Jets, before traveling to Miami and St. Louis to conclude the road schedule.

"We just have to build on what we've started against Arizona," 49ers cornerback Walt Harris said. "Obviously, we didn't get that win with Arizona, but that's what we're building on, and we want to come in and just keep building on the momentum that we have. Everybody is playing as one and playing as a team. Hopefully, that carries over for us."

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Quarterback Shaun Hill performed an end-zone spike so flawlessly after scoring a touchdown several years ago in NFL Europe, he decided to never try to duplicate it. When Hill scored Sunday on a second-quarter run, he handed the ball to center Eric Heitmann to spike.

"One of the (NFL Europe) sponsors had this sign at the (back) of the end zone, and if you spiked it in front of their sign -- the TV gets to see this company's logo - they would donate money to this charity," Hill said. "So I run over there right in front of the sign and give it a good spike - great rebound on the ball. It was nice. Yeah, I didn't want to tarnish that spike at all."

Hill said that play will be the one and only spike of his professional football career.

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The green dot has returned to safety Mark Roman's helmet. Roman began the season as the defensive player entrusted with relaying the plays to his teammates. He was the player whose helmet was equipped with a radio device to receive communication from the 49ers sideline.

Linebacker Patrick Willis took over the duties for a few weeks, but Roman is back in charge of communicating the plays to the 49ers defense.

"I think Patrick was relieved when we did that (gave it back to Roman) because there are so many things that the coaches are still trying to convey and the ball is about to be snapped," Singletary said.

"We just thought it would be better with all the communication going on in the back end that Mark Roman would get it back and have the speaker in his helmet. And Pat would just control the front seven. That would be easier on Pat, so that he is not turning around and trying to relay messages."

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The typical "Win Monday" that 49ers players experienced after rare victories during the Mike Nolan era did not happen the day after the 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams.

Singletary said he wanted the team to be around each other the day after the game to promote more bonding.

"I feel that the day after the game, I'd like to see the players and I think that you have something to share with one another," Singletary said. "When you win a game, you want to come in. You just won the game the day before, you come in talk about it a little bit more. But other than that, bring them in let them work out. Let them get the lactic acid out and kind of bond a bit. You have Tuesday off so you can take all of that, and we can talk little bit about the next opponent as well. So that's all."

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Apparently, the 49ers have found a home for Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal. Snyder started the first seven games at left guard. Now, he's the starting right tackle. And Rachal, a second-round pick who worked at right tackle in the offseason, appears set to supplant Tony Wragge as the starter at right guard.

Snyder takes over full time for Jonas Jennings, who was placed on injured reserve this week after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Jennings will have missed all or parts of 47 games due to injuries in four seasons with the 49ers. He sustained a dislocated shoulder Sept. 14 in the 49ers' second game of the season. Veteran Barry Sims originally replaced Jennings. Snyder has played well at right tackle the past two games.

"Jonas did everything in his power to get back from the injury, and he was cleared to return to practice as long as he wore a harness," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said. "It was a matter of pain tolerance, but he wasn't going to be 100 percent without surgery. We discussed it with Jonas and our medical team and all parties agreed that it would be the best thing for Jonas, and his future, to go ahead and have the surgery now."

The 49ers replaced Jennings on the 53-man roster with second-year tackle Jacob Bender, who was signed from the New England Patriots practice squad. Bender (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) was originally selected by the New York Jets in the sixth round of the 2007 draft out of Nicholls State.



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