Another wakeup call for 49ers

The 49ers have certainly not mastered the art of the wakeup call. But they'll get another chance Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the 49ers' road record is 9-36 (.200 win percentage). But in road games that begin at 10 a.m., Pacific time, the 49ers are a pathetic 3-27 (.100).

Not only are three of the 49ers' next four games on the road, but each of those games has an early start time, including Sunday's game against the Bills.

There are a lot of reasons for the 49ers' struggles this season, but veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes said it stems from a general lack of confidence throughout the club.

"We're a team that lacks confidence," Spikes said. "When you lack confidence as a group, it's hard to get everybody to believe, 'OK, we just need to make a play here and the momentum will change.' "I've seen the bottom of the barrel. That's not us."

The 49ers have lost seven of their past eight games.

Interim coach Mike Singletary said he is pleased with certain aspects of the 49ers' play since he took over for fired Mike Nolan. But the execution is keeping the team from compiling victories. The 49ers are 1-3 since Singletary took over on Oct. 20.

"I love every one of them and their effort was outstanding, but we didn't play smart," Singletary said after the 49ers' 35-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in an early start at Texas Stadium.

"That's where we've lost games. We play with heart and a lot of intention and energy, but you have to play smart football. We have to be smarter than we are."

The 49ers will be looking for a bounce-back game from cornerback Nate Clements, whom Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens toasted for 213 yards and a touchdown. Clements is generally assigned to cover the opponent's top threat. And Singletary said he would not hesitate to have Clements match up solely on the Bills' Lee Evans, who has 42 receptions for 810 yards. Clements said he would not back down from that challenge.

"I have confidence in what I can do against anybody," Clements said. "I'm going to make the corrections, and I'm going to be back at it. ... My mindset is I'm down overall, how the season's gone. I'm frustrated. But I'm confident in my abilities and in myself and my teammates."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody keeps fighting. That's the kind of guys we have in the locker room. It's our genetic makeup as a team. Everybody's going to keep fighting until the end." -- 49ers QB Shaun Hill.

LINEUP WATCH: Rookie guard Chilo Rachal made his first career start against the Cowboys. After Singletary got his promotion, he wanted to start working Rachal into the starting lineup. As offensive coordinator Mike Martz points out, Rachal is not working into the starting lineup because of poor play from Tony Wragge, who started the first 10 games at right guard. The 49ers believe Rachal, a second-round draft pick, has a chance to be "special." But Rachal did not exactly have an auspicious starting debut. "He did not play well," Singletary said Monday. "He played like a rookie, OK." But Rachal will remain in the starting lineup against the Bills. "He will star this week and he will play better," Singletary said.


--- RB Frank Gore had a miserable game against the Cowboys, as he gained just 26 yards on 14 carries, while producing just 6 yards receiving on one reception. The 49ers ran six offensive plays in the first quarter from the 4- or 5-yard line and Gore carried just twice for minus-1 yard.

--- QB Shaun Hill threw for a career-best 303 yards, with 112 yards and two touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter of the blowout loss to the Cowboys. Through three quarters, Hill struggled in the red zone, where he completed one of seven passing attempts for 1 yard and one interception.

--WR Isaac Bruce had his second-best game of the season, as he caught eight passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Bruce had 153 yards receiving in a Week 2 victory over Seattle. But in his other nine games, entering Sunday's game, he had averaged approximately 30 yards receiving.

--LB Manny Lawson is making a strong case to see more and more playing time. Lawson is the first defender to leave the field when the 49ers go with extra defensive backs. Lawson recorded a sack, a tackle for a loss, and caught a lateral from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for a fumble recovery.

--KR Allen Rossum left the game in the second quarter with a right ankle sprain. He did not return, and his status for this week's game against Buffalo is uncertain. Rossum has a 27.3-yard average on 40 kickoff returns this season.

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