49ers' Snyder will make 1st start of season

By CRAIG MASSEI - Associated Press
    2013-11-23 18:28

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Adam Snyder returned to the San Francisco 49ers this season because the offensive lineman thought it was his best opportunity to win a championship.

Nothing that has happened the past two weeks has shaken that belief, and his teammates and coaches feel the same way.

But there's a sense of urgency as the defending NFC champions take a two-game losing streak into Monday night's game against the Washington Redskins.

The 49ers (6-4) have slipped to the sixth and final spot in the conference playoff picture, as San Francisco prepares for the season's stretch run.

Snyder will be in the middle of it Monday when he makes his first start of the season. The ninth-year veteran takes the place of injured All-Pro left guard Mike Iupati for a struggling offense that has been a big reason for the team's recent slide that followed a five-game winning streak.

It's a familiar situation for Snyder, who made 69 starts at four line positions during his first stint in San Francisco from 2005-2011.

What's not so familiar for the 49ers is a losing streak that has dropped them near the edge of playoff contention. It's just the second time San Francisco has lost two games in a row since coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff arrived in 2011.

But the 49ers, who were 9-1 and 7-2-1 after 10 games the past two seasons, remain confident they can get back on course for a return to the Super Bowl.

''I still believe that and I know that everybody in this locker room believes that, and that's where we are right now,'' Snyder said Saturday.

''The games become more important now. We put ourselves in this position coming down the stretch and we use it as motivation. Things didn't go the way that we planned, but we just have to keep fighting, stay on task, and that's what we're doing every day.''

As his team prepared to leave for Washington early Saturday afternoon, Harbaugh was able to stray from his usual ''one-game-at-a-time'' mentality and look at the big picture.

The 49ers, two-time defending NFC West champions, trail the Seattle Seahawks by 3 1/2 games in the division with six to play. One of those games is a home rematch with Seattle in two weeks.

''The thing you look at is, the season plays out differently each year,'' Harbaugh said. ''I mean, the sense of urgency is high every week. There's plenty of opportunity ahead of us and the opportunity that's staring us right here in the face is a very good one, and that's what we focus on.''

Iupati suffered ligament damage in his left knee during last week's 23-20 loss at New Orleans, ending his run of 63 consecutive starts to begin his career since the 49ers made him the 17th overall selection of the 2010 draft.

San Francisco's offense had been struggling even with the first-team All-Pro in the lineup, gaining 151 total yards during a 10-9 home loss to Carolina two weeks ago and then 196 yards last week at New Orleans.

In that game, 17 of San Francisco's 20 points came after turnovers by the Saints. The other three came on Phil Dawson's 29-yard field goal that followed the Saints' turnover on downs in the third quarter. Dawson's kick culminated a 49-yard drive that was San Francisco's longest of the day.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been sacked nine times the past two weeks after San Francisco's line allowed just seven sacks over the previous five games.

The 49ers aren't expecting much drop-off with Snyder, who started 15 games at right guard in 2011 before leaving the team as a free agent. Snyder started 14 games for the Arizona Cardinals last season before returning to San Francisco.

''Adam's a guy we have complete and utter faith in,'' offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. ''So that's really about it. He's a very versatile guy. Plug him in and go. Don't even blink.''

Iupati's injury will break a string of consecutive starts for San Francisco's offensive line. All five starters along that unit earned recognition last season as either a Pro Bowl starter or Pro Bowl alternate, and all five started each of San Francisco's 19 games last season and all 10 so far this season.

''It's rare to have an offensive line go through almost an entire two seasons and not have an injury,'' Snyder said.

''They were fortunate enough to do that but now I have to step in and I don't want to have any drop-off in the level of production. I think I'm capable of doing that. They're big shoes to fill, but it's not like I'm stepping into a situation that I've never been in and they've never been a part of.''


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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