Cardinals,Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins spoil 49ers’ home opener with 24-20 victory

By Joe Hawkes

SANTA CLARA, Calif — The San Francisco 49ers’ “Revenge Tour” for 2020 didn’t get off to the best start, as the Arizona Cardinals slipped by San Francisco, 24-20, in Week 1 of the NFL season on Sunday afternoon.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, whom the Cardinals acquired in the offseason via a trade with the Houston Texans, dominated a usually formidable 49ers defense for much of the game. Hopkins finished with a career-high 14 catches for 151 yards in his debut, set up running back Kenyan Drake’s 1-yard go-ahead TD with 5:03 left in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Kyler Murray, last season’s Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, picked up where he left off, threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and ran for 90 yards and another score to help the Cardinals (1-0) overcome a pair of fourth quarter deficits to the reigning NFC champion 49ers (0-1) in an empty Levi’s Stadium in smoky temperatures.

There were growing concerns all week that the game could be postponed because of poor air quality from fires from across Northern California. The Air Quality Index remained below the 200 threshold and the game kicked off on time.

Murray completed 26-of-40 passes and was sacked twice on the day. Murray actually rushed for 100 yards before two kneeldowns at the end for minus-10 yards.

49ers running back Jerick McKinnon caught a 5-yard TD pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in his first game since Dec. 31, 2017, to give San Francisco a 20-17 lead with 8:38 left in the fourth quarter before Murray engineered Arizona’s comeback.

Murray’s 33-yard connection to Hopkins to the 49ers’ 1-yard line would setup Drake’s score on the very next play, putting the Cardinals up for good.

San Francisco’s defense registered just one sack by defensive end Kerry Hyder and one interception by safety Jaquiski Tartt. It was San Francisco’s first recorded interception by a safety since Oct. 28, 2018, coincidentally, by Tartt against the Cardinals when he picked off from first-round pick Josh Rosen.

Tartt recorded the interception in the second quarter off a tip pass from second-year starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

The defense looked extremely gassed in the fourth quarter after Arizona went on a 14-play, 94-yard drive that covered 6:48 minutes that resulted in a 22-yard TD run by Murray that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 17-13 with 10:26 remaining.

Garoppolo, who finished 19-of-33 passing for 259 yards and two TD’s, moved San Francisco to the Cardinals’ 16-yard line before throwing an incomplete pass to wide receiver Trent Taylor on fourth-and-5 that sealed the 49ers’ fate.

San Francisco jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead, highlighted by a 76-yard TD catch from running back Raheem Mostert from Garoppolo. Mostert’s score reached a maximum speed of 22.73 MPH, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

It was the fastest TD since Tyreek Hill in 2016.

As a whole, San Francisco struggled on offense against a very improved Cardinals defense for much of the game. The 49ers couldn’t convert on third down, going 2-for-11 on the day and got nothing from its wide receiver group.

Taylor (5), Kendrick Bourne (5) and Dante Pettis garnered just 11 targets while mustering just 41 yards among them.

By that same token, fullback Kyle Juszczyk had one catch but that went for 41 yards in the fourth quarter.

Tight end George Kittle, the 49ers unquestioned best offensive player, caught four passes for 44 yards in the first half before leaving late in the second quarter for the locker room with a scary looking leg injury. Kittle jumped high for a pass from Garoppolo on the left side of the field. The All-Pro tight end was tackled around his waist by Cardinals safety Budda Baker just as he landed to the turf.

It appeared that Kittle’s left knee just hyperextend. Kittle did return in the second-half, but was a virtual non-factor in the offense.

San Francisco looks to get into the win column next week as they travel to New York for their first of two games in the Big Apple, when they take on the Jets in Week 2.

The Jets (0-1) fell to their AFC East rivals, the Buffalo Bills (1-0), 27-17 earlier in the day.

Nothing went well for the Jets, who opened the game with three three-and-outs, combined for 23 yards of offense and one first down on their five possessions, and trailed 21-0 before anyone blinked.

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold completed 21-of-35 passes for 215 yards, one touchdown, one interception and was sacked three times.

Wide receiver Jamison Crowder had himself a game, hauling seven catches for 115 yards which included a 69-yard TD catch from Darnold that briefly cut the Bills’ lead to 21-10 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.

 

 

 

Raiders set to finish extended road trip Sunday in Houston

Photo credit: @Raiders

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

The Oakland Raiders have finally come to the finish line of their 49-day stretch away from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as they prepare for a trip to Houston to take on the 4-3 Texans. This will be the first meeting between the two clubs at NRG Stadium since the 2016 Wild Card game, which the Texans prevailed over the Raiders, 27-14.

The two teams met earlier that season, an international home game in Mexico City for Oakland, in which the Raiders defeated Houston, 27-20, that brought the all-time series to 6-4 in favor of Houston.

Originally slated for a 10:00 a.m. PT start time, the kickoff was flexed to 1:25 p.m. PT by CBS. The Raiders are looking to finish their five-game road trip at 3-2, and win their third-straight road game over the Texans.

Last week, the Raiders (3-3) were hammered by the Green Bay Packers, 42-24 at Lambeau Field in Week 8 following their Bye Week. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lit up the Raiders defense, throwing for five touchdowns and rushing for another one en route to completing 25-of-31 passes for 429 yards as the Packers defeated the Raiders for the eighth-straight time dating back to 1990.

Green Bay (6-1) has scored 30-plus points in their last five meetings against the Raiders.

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs recorded his second-straight 100-yard rushing game, rushing for 124 yards on 21 carries with 5.9 yards per attempt. With 554 yards rushing through the first six games of his career, Jacobs surpassed Bo Jackson’s mark of 553 yards in 1987 for most in franchise history.

Quarterback Derek Carr completed 22-of-28 passes for 293 yards, two touchdowns, but had two costly turnovers in the red zone for Oakland.

With Oakland trailing 14-10 late in the first half, Carr had Oakland in position to retake the lead. After Carr found tight end Darren Waller on a 48-yard hookup down the middle of the field, the Raiders had first and goal at the Packers’ 3-yard line.

On second down, Carr rushed for the pylon, but Packers linebacker Blake Martinez forced a fumble and the ball went through the back of the end zone for a touchback.

Following Carr’s turnover, Rodgers would connect with wide receiver Jake Kumerow for a 37-yard touchdown that would give Green Bay a 21-10 lead heading into halftime.

With Oakland desperately trying to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter trailing 28-17 following a 7-yard touchdown from Carr to Waller, Packers cornerback Kevin King intercepted Carr with 8:09 left to play in the game that seemingly iced the game for Green Bay.

Following the turnover by Carr, Rodgers would throw register his sixth score of the day, a 74-yard pass to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who finished with two catches for 133 yards.

Waller recorded his second 100-yard receiving game this season, hauling in seven catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores were Waller’s first for the season.

Waller’s 44 catches are the most for a Raiders player through the first six games, breaking Hall of Famer Tim Brown’s 41. Waller also lead the team with 485 yards.

Defensively, rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby registered a sack for the second-straight week. Crosby recorded a sack against the Bears in Week 5 in London.

The Texans are coming off a 23-20 loss to their AFC South rival, the Indianapolis Colts, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 7.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the best passers in the league, throwing for 1,952 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions with a 104.1 passer rating. Watson leads the NFL’s ninth-best scoring offense, averaging 26.4 points per game.

Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will have Oakland’s defense on high alert. Hopkins is currently third in the NFL in catches with 49 to go along with 508 receiving yards and three touchdowns (tied with fellow teammates Will Fuller and tight Darren Fells).

Fuller is second on the team in catches (34) and yards (450).

Defensively for Houston, linebackers Zach Cunningham (53 tackles) and Benardick McKinney (52 tackles) are always around the ball and barely misses tackles.

Fellow linebacker Whitney Mercilus leads the team with 5.5 sacks, while defensive end J.J. Watt is second with 4 sacks.

Following Sunday’s game, the Raiders will return home to begin a three-game stretch where they will face the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively.

Houston will travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars in Week 9 before heading into their Bye Week.

Oakland and Houston both dealing with QB issues ahead of Saturday’s AFC Wild Card playoff game

Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook passes against the Denver Broncos in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Now that the 2016 season is in the rear view mirror, the real fun begins: the playoffs.

No matter how you got there as a team, if you happen to be one of the 12 teams that have a shot at playing in Houston on Sunday Feb. 5 in Super Bowl LI for the Vince Lombardi trophy you earned your way to the Dance.

Needing just a win in Denver in Week 17 to clinch the AFC West title, the No. 2 seed, and a first-round bye, the Raiders squandered all of it by looking lethargic and disinterested in a 24-6 loss to the Broncos Sunday knocking the Silver and Black to the No. 5 seed.

No home playoff game or week off. All gone.

By virtue of their 37-27 win in San Diego Sunday, Kansas City (12-4), captured the AFC West crown and locked up the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye that comes with it.

In the process of the loss, Oakland (12-4) lost another quarterback when backup-turned-starter Matt McGloin left the game late in the second quarter with a shoulder injury.McGloin completed 6-of-11 passes for 21 yards and was ineffective in his first start since 2013 in place of franchise quarterback, Derek Carr.

Carr was having an MVP-type of season passing for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions before breaking his fibula against Indianapolis in a 33-25 Oakland victory on Christmas Eve.

Carr headlined a league-high seven Raiders that were selected to the AFC Pro Bowl team this season.

McGloin finished the game on the sideline as he watched rookie quarterback Connor Cook taking his first snap as a pro.

Oakland had more penalty yards (90) than on offense (50) in the first half as Denver racked up 254 yards of total offense.

Cook, who may find himself starting for the Silver and Black’s first playoff game since 2002 on Saturday when the 5-seeded Raiders travel to Houston for an AFC Wild Card game, completed 14-of-21 passes for 150 yards, a touchdown, and an interception in relief.

Kickoff is at 1:35 p.m. PT  at NRG Stadium.

Oakland is hoping that this won’t be the last time they travel to Houston for a big game this season, but all hands are definitely on deck.

According to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Oakland is planning to sign journeyman quarterback Garrett Gilbert to the practice squad and could be active for the Wild Card game.

Gilbert, a former sixth round draft pick by in 2014 by the then-St. Louis Rams, spent all of last season on Oakland’s practice squad. Gilbert actually spent his rookie season with the New England Patriots and won a Super Bowl ring after being cut by the Rams.

The Raiders do have two dangerous pass-catchers in wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Crabtree led Oakland with five catches for 47 yards, while Cooper hauled in four catches for 39 yards including a 32-yard catch for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Crabtree (89 catches/1,003 yards/8 TDs) and Cooper (83 catches/1,153 yards/5 TDs) became the first Raider duo with 1,000 yards in a season since Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (83 catches/1,139 yards/9 TDs) and Tim Brown (91 catches/1,165 yards/9 TDs) did it in 2001.

Latavius Murray powers an Oakland running attack that will need to bounce back after rushing for 57 yards against a Broncos’ defense that has had trouble stopping the run this season.

Murray, who led Oakland with 788 yards rushing this season on 195 carries, tied former Raiders running back Marcus Allen’s franchise record with 12 rushing touchdowns. The Hall of Famer scored 12 rushing touchdowns for the Raiders in 1990 when the Silver and Black called Los Angeles home.

When you share company with a player like Allen, who was one of the most prolific offensive players in league history, that’s saying something for Murray.

Oakland’s defense, which has been hot and cold this season, let Broncos running backs run freely for huge yardage. The backfield of Justin Forsett (22 carries for 90 yards) and Devontae Booker (14 carries, 57 yards, TD) gave Oakland fits all day, especially Booker.

Booker capped off an 8-play, 84-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to give Denver a 7-0 lead on the Broncos’ opening drive. Forsett’s 64-yard run (the longest run by a Broncos running back this season) on Denver’s third drive would set up a 22-yard field goal from kicker Brandon McManus that gave Denver a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Following a Raiders’ punt, Booker helped Denver stake a 17-0 lead shortly before halftime after taking a short pass from quarterback Trevor Siemian 43 yards for a touchdown.

But when you think hard about the chances for a Raiders’ victory, the more and more you got to believe that defensive end Khalil Mack and the defense will have to show up against a Houston team that has questions at quarterback of their own ahead of Saturday’s showdown in H-Town.

It’s only right since Mack is Oakland’s closer on defense, making game-changing plays in the fourth quarter when the Silver and Black have needed them.

Mack’s 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, and pick-6 has the third-year pro from Buffalo one of the favorites for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The No. 4-seeded Texans (9-7) don’t know who will play quarterback for them Saturday. According to reports, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is expected to name a starter Tuesday.

Newly minted started Tom Savage (5-of-8 for 25 yards) left Sunday’s game at Tennessee with a concussion and was replaced by former starter Brock Osweiler for the remainder of the game.

Savage did clear the league concussion protocol during the game, but was held out for Osweiler, who finished 21-of-40 for 253 yards and a touchdown in Houston’s 24-17 loss in Music City.

Osweiler, who signed to a four-year, $72 million contract ($37 million guaranteed) to be the Houston’s franchise quarterback after four seasons backing up future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning in Denver, had Houston in first place in the AFC South the entire year but has been inconsistent this season.

In 14 starts this season, Osweiler has thrown for 2,957 yards with 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Houston is 29th in the league in scoring at 17.4 points per game this season, and do have some play-makers of their own.

Running back Lamar Miller eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau in his first year in Houston following four years in Miami. Miller had 268 carries for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns, but missed the last two games dealing with an ankle injury.

Miller is expected to play Saturday which is critical to Houston’s offense.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is the Texans leading receiver with 78 catches for 954 yards, and is tied with tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for the team lead with four touchdown catches.

Houston’s defense was expected to suffer without superstar defensive end J.J. Watt, who only played in three games this season due to back surgery, but the unit hasn’t taken a step back in Watt’s absence as it finished ranked No. 1 in total defense yielding just 301.3 yards per game to opposing offenses.

The Silver and Black finished the season ranked seventh in total offense, averaging 26 points and 373.2 yards per game, albeit with Carr in the lineup.

Linebackers Whitney Mercilus (7.5) and Benardrick McKinney (5.0), along with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (6.0) combine for 18.5 of Houston’s 31 sacks this season.

McKinney leads Houston with 129 tackles, while Clowney was named to his first AFC Pro Bowl team.

This will be the second time that these two teams meet up this season.

Oakland scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to squeak past  Houston 27-20 in Week 11 in Mexico City. Houston held Oakland to just 120 yards offensively through the first three quarters.

The Raiders defense must do a better job on containing Miller this time around after allowing 24 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown to Houston’s starting running back in the last meeting.

 

 

 

Raiders begin second half push against Texans following bye week in Mexico City

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) raises arm in celebration after running back Latavius Murray’s touchdown run in the second half against the Denver Broncos on Nov 6th

OAKLAND, Calif — After a week off, the Raiders gear up for a tough second half with a trip down to Mexico City for a “home” game against the Houston Texans on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to wrap up Week 11 action at Estadio Azteca.

Oakland is riding a three-game winning streak and are tied with New England and Kansas City for the best record in the AFC at 7-2.

Kansas City leads Oakland by a half-game and Denver (7-3) by one game in the jam-packed AFC West.

The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 26-10 in Oakland in Week 6.

Derek Carr is having an MVP-type of season in Year 3, throwing for 2,505 yards, 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Carr is leading a Raider offense that ranks sixth in the league in passing yards per game, averaging 278.3 yards.

The passing game maybe engineered by Carr, but it is driven by the wide receiver tandem of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.

While Cooper leads Oakland in catches (58) and receiving yards (843) to go along with two touchdowns, Crabtree has been Carr’s go-to guy, leading the team with six touchdown catches on 49 catches for 596 receiving yards.

Oakland boasts one of the game better offensive lines, which has only surrendered a league-low 11 sacks to opposing defenses.

The Raiders could have their hands full against a Texans team that ranks fourth overall in defense this season allowing just 317.4 yards of total offense per game, while playing the majority of the season without defensive end J.J. Watt who is out for the season with a back injury.

Linebacker Benardrick McKinney racked up seven tackles to increase his team-leading 81 for the season on Sunday. Fellow linebacker Whitney Mercilus leads Houston with 4.5 sacks.

Houston (6-3) finally won on the road last week, upending the Jaguars 24-21 in Jacksonville Sunday. The Texans lead the AFC South and remain undefeated (3-0) following their fifth straight win over the Jaguars.

Quarterback Brock Osweiler threw two touchdowns (despite throwing for just 99 yards), and cornerback Kareem Jackson intercepted a Blake Bortles’ pass intended for wide receiver Allen Hurns 42 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter on Jacksonville’s fifth play from scrimmage.

Running back Lamar Miller has rushed for 720 yards and three touchdowns in his first season in Houston following four years in Miami.

Miller rumbled for 83 yards on 15 carries Sunday against Jacksonville.

Despite a down season statistically, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is still Houston’s dynamic play-maker.

After amassing recording six 100-yard receiving games that led to Hopkins’ breakout 2015 season in which he hauled in 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns, Hopkins has just one 100-yard receiving game in 2016.

Hopkins leads Houston with 45 catches for 482 yards, and is tied with tight end C.J. Fierdorowicz for the team lead with three receiving touchdowns.