By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – After losing ground in a battle for a playoff spot, the
San Francisco 49ers hope for better luck in the “Battle of the Bay.”
The Niners hope to rebound from a rough Thanksgiving night loss this Sunday as
they visit the Oakland Raiders and the Coliseum.
San Francisco had a three-game winning streak halted as it was routed by the
Seattle Seahawks 19-3 at home on Nov. 27. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick
struggled to just 16-of-29 passing for 121 yards while getting picked off
twice by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
Seattle outgained San Francisco 379-164 and running back Carlos Hyde led all
Niner receivers with 38 yards on three catches.
“In all areas, they played better team football,” said 49ers head coach Jim
Harbaugh. “We have to come back and win them all.”
The 49ers dropped to 7-5 on the season, putting them a game back of the
Seahawks for second place in the NFC West and two back of the front-running
Arizona Cardinals. San Francisco can still keep itself in the hunt, though, as
it visits Seattle on Dec. 14 and then closes the regular season at home versus
Arizona among its four remaining games.
The Niners hope to head to Seattle for a rematch off a winning note as they
visit the 1-11 Raiders. The all-time series is tied at 6-6, but San Francisco
has won three straight and four of the past five meetings.
San Francisco will visit Oakland for the first time since a 23-20 overtime
victory in 2002 and this marks the fifth “Battle of the Bay” since the Raiders
returned to Oakland in 1995.
The Raiders, though, haven’t beaten the Niners as the home team since 1991
while in Los Angeles.
Oakland snapped a 16-game losing streak dating back to last season with a
24-20 home victory over Kansas City on Nov. 20, but any momentum from that
Thursday victory was crushed last weekend in a 52-0 thumping at the hands of
the hosting St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
The Raiders allowed 21 points in the first quarter and then saw Rams running
back Tre Mason rip off an 89-yard touchdown run early in the second.
Meanwhile, Oakland managed just 244 yards of offense for the game.
“We didn’t start fast. We knew this was a team that started fast, one of the
better teams in the league that way, and we didn’t start fast on either side
of the football today,” said Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano.
Rookie Derek Carr finished 24-of-39 passing for 173 yards and threw
interceptions on consecutive drives in the second quarter. Wide receiver James
Jones and running back Marcel Reece both caught six passes.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Points have been hard to come by for the Niners at times this season as they
rank tied for 25th in the NFL with 19.3 per game. However, the Raiders are
tied for 30th with 28.1 points allowed per game and are yielding 359.4 yards
San Francisco hopes to get Kaepernick on track as he posted just a 36.7 passer
rating versus the Seahawks and had a run of 18 straight games with a touchdown
“We’re going to attack it. We’re going to get it right,” Harbaugh said of
getting Kaepernick adjusted. “There will be improvements that are made and I
have great confidence that we can do that.”
Kaepernick has won six of his eight career starts versus the AFC with 12 total
touchdowns in that span. Eight of those have come through the air with another
four on the ground.
San Francisco’s quarterback will be trying to avoid a familiar face in Raiders
cornerback Tarell Brown, who was a fifth-round pick by the Niners in 2007. He
became a full-time starter in 2011 and recorded 11 interceptions with San
Francisco before signing with the Raiders this season.
“He’s doing a very good job at diagnosing routes,” Harbaugh said of Brown.
“He’s very good at having the instincts to play the route. He’ll sit on
routes. He gets involved with the breakups and he’s looking to be in position
to get interceptions. A lot of respect for his game.”
Oakland actually added two former 49er defensive backs this offseason, signing
Carlos Rogers as well, but he is out with a knee injury.
Brown will try to stop San Francisco receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael
Crabtree. Both have recorded four touchdown catches this season, while Boldin
leads the club with 68 receptions and 843 yards.
“I look forward to it. It’s going to be exciting,” noted Brown. “They’ll be
hyped up to play against me. I’ll be hyped up to play against them, and it’s
always great competition when you go against guys you’re familiar with.”
Crabtree, though, was limited in practice on Wednesday after suffering
injuries to his abdomen and knee versus Seattle.
The Niners defense slipped to fourth in the NFL with 306.7 yards allowed per
game after struggling a bit versus the Seahawks, but the 49ers are just one of
five teams to have at least three players with five or more sacks.
Linebackers Ahamd Brooks and Aaron Lynch, along with defensive tackle Justin
Smith, have all hit the mark, with Lynch picking up a sack in three straight.
San Francisco’s linebackers are producing despite not having NaVarro Bowman
all season due to injury and losing Patrick Willis to a toe injury on Nov. 11
that ended his campaign. Linebacker Chris Borland has stepped in, recording 87
tackles, a sack and two interceptions in 12 games this season with six starts.
Borland, who has at least 13 tackles in four of his past five games, was named
the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for November.
The unit will try to rattle Carr, who leads all NFL rookies with 2,422 passing
yards and 14 touchdowns.
Despite Oakland’s struggles this season, Sparano doesn’t plan on sitting Carr
and isn’t too concerned with performance versus the Rams.
“I didn’t feel like he looked rattled, but I thought that as the game went on
and you’re in one of those kind of games where you have to throw the football,
handing the football off at that point isn’t a huge option,” said the coach.
Carr could be helped if running back Latavius Murray can play this weekend. He
ran for a career-high 112 yards in the win over the Chiefs, but suffered a
concussion in the victory and did not play against the Rams.
The good news for the Niners is that the extra time to stew about the loss to
the Seahawks should help them avoid looking past the Raiders. They can’t
afford to lose a game like this and should be amped up to get on track.
Also, since 2011, the 49ers are 3-0 following a game on “Thursday Night
Football” and have outscored their opponents 84-6 in those three contests.
That doesn’t bode well for an Oakland team playing out the string, even if
local bragging rights are on the line.
Sports Network predicted outcome: 49ers 20, Raiders 9