Carr continues to steer Raiders in right direction with Denver looming

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Winning football games in the NFL are extremely difficult, especially when you don’t have a quarterback.

Ask teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and the New York Jets who are playing musical chairs at the game’s most critical and scrutinized position how difficult it is to win in the NFL.

Those teams are a combine 5-25 this seasons, while the likes of the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and the Atlanta Falcons are a combine 24-4 this season with smart signal callers who can take over games.

Then there is Derek Carr and the 6-2 Oakland Raiders who continue to surprise each week.

Carr, who has ice water in his veins to go along with great confidence, plays more like a 10-year veteran than a third-year quarterback as evidence to his record-setting performance in Oakland’s wild 30-24 overtime victory in Tampa in Week 8.

The Oakland quarterback threw for 513 yards (setting a new franchise record, breaking the mark held by Cotton Davidson), with four touchdowns and no interceptions on 40-of-59 passes against the Buccaneers.

Carr and the Raiders’ offense racked up 626 total yards while dominating the time of possession by nearly 15 minutes. Tampa Bay’s defense looked gassed under the sweltering West Florida sun, staying on the field for 85 plays Sunday.

Carr found wide receiver Seth Roberts for a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown down the middle of the field with under two minutes in overtime. Before that, Carr found tight end Mychal Rivera for the game-tying score with 1:38 left.

The win moved Oakland to 5-0 on the road this season. It’s the first time that the franchise is 5-0 on the road in a season since 1977.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Raiders became the 46th team under the current playoff format to win five straight road games in a season.

The previous 45 teams have all gone on to make the playoffs that season.

On the season, Carr has thrown for 17 touchdowns (third-best) to just three interceptions. His 2,231 yards through the air ranks him fifth among all quarterbacks in the league.

But many outside of the Bay Area aren’t sold on the Raiders, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 which is the last time Oakland played in the Super Bowl, because they don’t have a signature win.

With the hated Denver Broncos coming into town and the game being featured on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Carr and the Raiders will have a chance to show the rest of the country how good they really are with first place in the highly competitive AFC West at stake.

Denver (6-2) dropped division rival San Diego at home 27-19 Sunday behind their punishing third ranked defense.

Super Bowl 50 MVP linebacker Von Miller recorded one of four sacks on the day for Denver. Miller is second in the NFL with 8.5 sacks this season.

The defense also added three interceptions, one of which was returned 49 yards for a touchdown by free safety Bradley Roby in the second quarter against San Diego Sunday.

This is the type of game that Carr and the Raiders must get up for more so than the previous eight games this season.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper had a career day, victimizing Tampa Bay for 12 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown, while fellow wide receiver Michael Crabtree added eight catches for 108 yards against the Buccaneers.

Cooper is third among NFL wide receivers with 787 receiving yards, while Crabtree is tied with Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans for the league lead in touchdown catches with six.

The duo are considered one of the best in the league, but will have their hands full with Denver’s cornerback tandem in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr.

Talib and Harris Jr. lead one of the best secondaries in the league, along with hard-hitting safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. Denver surrenders a league-low 183.9 passing yards per game to opposing teams, while Oakland averages 285 passing yards per game, fourth-best in the league.

Despite recording a league-record 23 penalties for 200 yards on Sunday (yes, that is two football fields worth of penalties if you’re scoring at home), the Raiders are proving that they can play with anybody because they have a quarterback

Oakland’s 31st ranked defense which has allowed 410.4 yards per game to opposing offenses, yielded just 270 yards of total offense against the Buccaneers.

After a slow start, linebacker Khalil Mack has returned to dominating fashion. Mack registered two sacks off Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, giving him five of Oakland’s 11 sacks for the season.

Carr who has quickly become an MVP candidate, and the  will need to lead Oakland to victory over the Super Bowl champs if the Raiders are to garner any respect outside of the 510 area code.

NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: Patriots, Cards, Panthers, and Broncos move on

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

After a 4-0 record last weekend in the wild card round, I can pat myself on the back for accurately picking that Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay would win, but the divisional round is a whole different animal.

Oh yeah, it was the first time in NFL history that all four road teams won in the wild card round.

With three of the four games rematches from the regular season, there is a chance that all four games are going to come down to the wire. The teams that can execute in crunch time, limit the bone-head mistakes, and penalties will have the greatest chances of playing in next week’s conference championship games.

In the divisional round this weekend, it will be the home teams that will protect their turf with impressive victories and move one step closer to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5); 5th seed at New England (12-4); 2nd seed –  Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET/1:35 p.m. PT – CBS

The divisional round is kicked off with Kansas City again, but this time the Chiefs are flying to Foxborough to take on a Patriots team fresh off a bye week.

Kansas City has been the hottest team in football, winners of 11 straight after destroying the Texans 30-0 in Houston last Saturday’s AFC wild card game. It was Kansas City’s first playoff victory in 22 years.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was a difficult cover for the Texans, finishing the game with eight catches for 128 and provided quarterback Alex Smith with a reliable receiver.

Smith’s top playmaker, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and is a game time decision. Should Maclin play, he will draw the attention of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl team this season.

Kansas City does have a solid running game with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, who racked up 67 rushing yards. Those two will be heavily involved in the game plan as the weather in Foxborough calls for rain, which makes Kansas City’s running game that much vital if they have a chance to knockoff New England. Ware is dealing with an ankle injury as well, but should be ready to go.

The last time Kansas City played New England, the Chiefs thumped the Patriots 41-14 at Arrowhead last season, prompting talks that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was old and it was time for him to retire.

Brady, who finished the regular season with 36 touchdowns and a 102.2 passer rating (his best numbers in four seasons), should have his full compliment of targets in tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receivers Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman at his disposal.

All three players missed time during the regular season, but New England continued to find ways to win games, but are entering the playoffs with a 2-4 record, the worst six-game record under head coach Bill Belichick to end the season.

Brady was sacked 38 times in the regular season, third-worst in his career. Kansas City has one of the best pass rushes in the league, finishing with 47 sacks, which was two behind New England’s defensive unit.

Kansas will have to provide pressure on Brady and force him to be uncomfortable in the pocket. If you allow Brady to have time to survey the field, he will find the open man and will hurt you.

“Any time you can get to the quarterback and put pressure on him, or make him uncomfortable in the pocket, you can create turnovers,” said Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston this week. “Every week that’s our plan, that’s our goal: Dominate every snap.”

Kansas City forced 29 turnovers this season after just mustering 13 last season. Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters finished tied in the NFL with Bengals safety Reggie Nelson with eight interceptions.

The player to watch for New England is defensive end Chandler Jones, who was hospitalized last Sunday for a “medical emergency.” Jones did apologize to his teammates and coaches Thursday for what he termed as a “stupid mistake” on his part.

Jones recorded 12.5 sacks this season, which was fifth in the league.

The Chiefs look to snap a five-game losing streak in New England, but it’s really tough to pick against Belichick and the Patriots when they’ve had two weeks to prepare.

Chiefs 21 – Patriots 30

Green Bay (10-6); 5th seed at Arizona Cardinals (13-3); 2nd seed –  Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 p.m. PT – NBC

In Week 16, Arizona hammered Green Bay 38-8, in which the Cardinals registered nine sacks. The game got out of hand very quickly as the Cardinals held the Packers to just 178 yards of total offense, which was their second-worst offensive output this season.

In addition to the nine sacks, Arizona’s defense scored two touchdowns as Green Bay’s offensive line had no chance at protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay found themselves down 11-0 in a NFC wild card game last week to Washington, before waking up and pulling away from the Redskins 35-18.

One player who really wanted to get another shot at the Cardinals is Rodgers, who was sacked eight times on Dec. 27.

“We kind of felt like this was a possibility to be able to go back after that loss,” said Rodgers per the Packers’ official website. “We’re coming off, obviously, a big win, and in (the Cardinals’) last game they got beat by a lot. So it’s going to be a more competitive game, I bet.”

Arizona got ran out of its own building by NFC West rival Seattle 36-6 in Week 17 to close out the regular season.

Carson Palmer, Arizona’s 36-year-old signal-caller, will attempt to win his first career playoff game for the third time. Palmer set franchise records for a quarterback in passing yards (4,671) and touchdown passes (35). The 13-year veteran leads a Cardinals’ offense that finished first in the league in total yards per game (408.3) and second in points per game (30.6).

In the Dec. 27 meeting, Palmer finished 18 of 27 for 265 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and was sacked twice.

Green Bay’s defense harassed Washington’s quarterback Kirk Cousins, sacking him six times.

Cousins is definitely not Palmer, but Green Bay’s defensive coordinator Dom Capers will need to neutralize Palmer and prevent him from getting the ball to wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald (109 catches, 1,215 yards, 9 TDs), John Brown (65 catches, 1,003 yards, 7 TDs), and Michael Floyd (52 catches, 849 yards, 6 TDs).

Rookie running back David Johnson, who has stepped in nicely for injured starting running back Chris Johnson (no relation), combined for 127 yards receiving and rushing and a touchdown against the Packers this season. Johnson finished the season with 13 total touchdowns and could prove to be the difference maker for Arizona.

The game will be closer than it was in Week 16, but the Cardinals are tough at the University of Phoenix Stadium this season (7-1) in what could be a Saturday night spectacular.

In their previous playoff meeting in 2009, Rodgers threw for 423 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception, but it was the forced fumble and recovery by then-Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby for the game winning score that prove to be the difference in Arizona’s 51-45 overtime victory.

That was Rodgers’ first playoff start.

Packers 27 – Cardinals 33

Seattle (10-6); 6th seed at Carolina Panthers (15-1); 1st seed –  Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET/10:05 a.m. PT – FOX

This is the marquee game of the weekend in my eyes. Two teams that are so evenly matched with two outstanding quarterbacks and defenses that will hit you in the mouth.

In all honesty, Seattle has no business even playing this weekend.

The Seahawks’ season were brought back from the dead after Minnesota’s kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal that would’ve won the game, but held on to a 10-9 victory on the road in Minnesota in last Sunday’s NFC wild card game. Seattle is looking to advance to the NFC Championship game for the third straight year, but will need to put up a herculean effort if they are going to get passed Carolina.

Let’s not forget it was Carolina who went to Seattle last year in the divisional round and lost to the Seahawks 31-17, en route to Seattle’s second straight Super Bowl appearance.

This season, Carolina enacted a bit of revenge when they traveled to Seattle again in Week 6 and beat the Seahawks in a gritty, 27-23, come-from-behind victory. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw two first-half interceptions before leading Carolina back from a 13-point deficit in the second half, and hitting his favorite target in tight end Greg Olsen for a 26-yard touchdown catch down the middle of the field with 32 seconds remaining in the game.

Newton, who is one of the favorites to win the league’s MVP award, especially with being the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and rushing for 10 touchdowns, completed 20 of 36 passes for 269 yards. Newton also racked up 30 yards rushing and a touchdown.

After the game, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said that game was “one of the bigger victories we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Panthers safety Roman Harper recently said that Carolina is “the better team.” “We need to go out and show confidence in who we are and the things we have done all year – and don’t shy away from the pressure.”

“After we played them, (in Week 6), we said “We’ll see you again in the playoffs,” Josh Norman, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl cornerback told Carolina’s official website.

Boy, I can’t wait for this game!

Carolina would make a huge statement in knocking off Seattle. Carolina hasn’t been to the NFC Championship game since 2005, where they lost at Seattle 34-14.  Many believe Seattle are peaking at the right time.

Dealing in the frigid conditions of Minnesota where the temperature was below-zero, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 13 of 26 passes for 142, one touchdown and one interception.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin had a breakout season, finishing with 78 catches for 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns. Seattle’s top receiver should see a lot of Norman, who can get under a wide receiver’s skin with his trash talking and suffocating-like cover skills.

Running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to play this week after not making the trip to Minnesota last week. Lynch should provide Seattle with a much needed running game to take a little of the pressure off of Wilson.

Seattle’s top-ranked run defense (81.5 yards per game)was on full display last week, holding NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on 23 carries.

One thing is for certain, there will be a streak that will come to an end Sunday, either Carolina’s 11 game home winning streak, or Seattle’s franchise record six game road playoff win streak – which includes last week’s victory in Minnesota.

Its a toss up, but Carolina looks like the time is now for them to take the next step.

Seahawks 17 – Panthers 20

Pittsburgh (10-6); 6th seed at Denver (12-4); 1st seed –  Sunday 4:40 p.m. ET/1:40 p.m. PT – CBS

With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hampered by a shoulder injury and will be limited Sunday and wide receiver Antonio Brown out with a concussion, there is no way that Pittsburgh is going to travel to Denver and take out the Broncos Sunday to close out the divisional round.

Denver’s secondary is much healthier now than it was on Dec. 20 where Roethlisberger completed 40 of 55 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns, and Brown caught 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, all season-highs for any opponent against Denver’s tough defense.

Denver did record two interceptions and three sacks off of Roethlisberger in the Week 15 encounter.

Roethlisberger is the only quarterback to throw over 300 yards against Denver this season.

“We got lucky the first time,” said Roethlisberger via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We made plays, they had guys injured, we were at home. It’s not going to be that easy (again).”

Pittsburgh slipped by AFC North rival Cincinnati 18-16 last Saturday in an AFC wild card match up. The Steelers were aided by back-to-back Cincinnati penalties in the fourth quarter that setup kicker Chris Boswell’s 35-yard game winning field goal in the closing seconds of the game.

Denver will start quarterback Peyton Manning in Sunday’s contest. Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 21 of 44 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, but this will be Manning’s show.

Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 15 catches, 242 yards and three touchdowns on Dec. 20, gives Manning the necessary targets to exploit a Steelers’ defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in passing defense yielding 271.9 yards per game this season.

Denver has won eight of their last 11 meetings against Pittsburgh at Mile High, including a 29-23 overtime thriller in a AFC wild card game on Jan 8, 2012 behind a Tim Tebow 80-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.

Steelers 21 – Broncos 35

Stats provided by Elias Sports Bureau, NFL.com,  and STATS LLC.

 

Raiders travel to Denver looking to play spoiler

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

photo credit: raiders.com Raiders come off practice field at Alameda facility on Thursday

OAKLAND — Sunday’s 34-20 loss to the Kansas City at O.co Coliseum not only dropped the Raiders to 5-7, but pretty much knocked Oakland from the AFC playoff race for the 13th consecutive season.

Raiders’ starting quarterback Derek Carr threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter (one returned for a touchdown by former Raider safety Tyvon Branch) to ice the game. All three interceptions led to 20 points for Kansas City.

Carr became the first Raiders’ quarterback to throw three interceptions in the fourth quarter since 1995, finished Sunday’s game 31-of-48 for 283 yards and two touchdowns.

Oakland heads to Denver Sunday looking to thwart the Broncos’ chances of locking up their fifth consecutive AFC Western division title, play a Broncos team coming off a key 17-3 victory in San Diego, but are banged up on both sides of the ball.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan and tight end Vernon Davis are dealing with concussions, safeties David Bruton Jr. (knee) and Omar Bolden (hamstring), and running back C.J. Anderson is hampered with an ankle injury. Denver was already playing without starting safety T.J. Ward, who might miss his second game due to an ankle injury.

Denver should get back veteran linebacker DeMarcus Ware back after a four-game absence due to a back injury. Denver’s defense No. 1 ranked defense didn’t miss a beat without Ware, collecting 11 sacks during Ware’s absence.

Linebacker Von Miller who will a be a free agent at season’s end, recorded two of Denver’s four sacks against San Diego.

Quarterback Brock Osweiler has won three straight games since taking over the starting role in place of the injured Peyton Manning. Despite just tossing 166 yards, Osweiler has steady the ship for the Broncos, who are currently the second seed in the AFC playoffs at 10-2.

Denver defeated Oakland 16-10 on Oct. 11 thanks in large part to a suffocating defense that forced three turnovers. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr.’s go-ahead 74-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter proved to be the biggest play of the game.

In three career games against Denver, Carr (0-3) has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions.

Denver has outscored Oakland 121-41 in three straight home wins, will attempt to defeat Oakland for a ninth straight time.

With a win and a loss or tie by Kansas City in San Diego, Denver will win the division. A loss or tie by Kansas City would also give Denver the division.

 

Looking for win No. 1, Raiders host Manning, Broncos Sunday

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — After a hard-fought 30-24 loss to the reigning Super Bowl Champion Seahawks in Seattle in Week 9 that dropped Oakland to a league-worst 0-8, the Silver & Black will have a tougher time trying to grab win No. 1 when their AFC West rival, the Denver Broncos, roll into Oakland for a Sunday tilt at O.co Coliseum.

Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PDT and can be seen locally on television in the Bay Area on CBS/KPIX Channel 5, and can be heard on KGMZ 95.7 the Game.

Offensively, Oakland has had it’s problems running the ball this year, averaging a league-worst 66.1 yards per game and have scored only two rushing touchdowns. Running back Darren McFadden has both touchdowns on the ground.

Quarterback Derek Carr completed 24-of-41 passes for 195 yards, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions, one of those interceptions was returned 35 yards by linebacker Bruce Irvin for a touchdown that pushed Seattle’s lead to 14-3 in the first quarter. Carr’s second interception was made by Pro Bowl cornerback, Richard Sherman toward the end of the first half.

“This thing is starting to turn,” interim Oakland coach Tony Sparano said after the Silver & Black’s 14th straight loss dating back to last season. “We’re playing better and better here as we go on. We’ve just got to get all phases to play better, so that we can get the feeling of what it’s like to be in their locker room right now.”

Defensively, the Raiders surrendered 326 yards of total offense and held Oakland native Marshawn Lynch to just 67 yards rushing, but it was Lynch’s powerful three-yard touchdown run in the first quarter where he bulldozed his way into the end zone that still have fans talking.

Lynch added another touchdown in the second quarter that gave Seattle a 21-6 lead at halftime.

With a banged up secondary (cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, D.J. Hayden, Chimdi Chekwa and T.J. Carrie all didn’t practice Thursday), Oakland could definitely be in for a rough Sunday afternoon against future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning and the fifth-ranked Denver Broncos offense.

Manning and the Broncos (6-2) are coming off an embarrassing 43-21 loss on the road against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxborough last Sunday, and Manning was critical of his play after the game.

“Well, I don’t usually stink, but I stunk today,” said Manning. “I don’t make any excuses.”

The Broncos signal caller completed 34-of-57 passes for 438 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, but the Broncos were done in by Brady’s four touchdown passes and Julian Edelman’s 84-yard punt return for a touchdown.

If Manning thought his performance against the Patriots was terrible, then Oakland is expected to see an “ugly” Manning performance on Sunday.

In two victories over the Raiders last season, Manning completed 87 percent (57-of-65) passes for 640 yards (2nd only to the 726 yards passing against Kansas City in two games last year) and seven touchdowns (tied for most after Manning’s seven touchdown performance in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens) according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Players to Watch

Oakland, FS, Charles Woodson. Woodson is still playing at a high level, leading a Raiders’ secondary that has been decimated by injuries this year. Now in his 17th season, Woodson leads the team with two interceptions, and is tied for third with 50 tackles.

Don’t forget, Woodson beat out Manning for the Heisman Trophy in 1997, but Manning was drafted ahead of Woodson No. 1 overall to Indianapolis, while Woodson went to Oakland at No. 4 that year.

Denver, WR, Emmanuel Sanders. Everyone knows Demaryius Thomas (third in the NFL among wide receivers with 54 catches for 894 yards and six touchdowns). Get to know Sanders.

After spending his first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sanders is off a great start to in his first year in the Mile High City. Sanders hauled in 10 catches on 16 targets for 151 yards against the Patriots, after torching the San Diego Chargers for nine catches on nine targets for 120 yards in Denver’s 35-21 victory.

San Antonio Raiders?

Per Raiders Insider CSNCalifornia.com’s Scott Bair, the San Antonio News reported Thursday that a group led by former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros are heading to the Bay Area to gauge team owner Mark Davis about moving to the Alamo City.

The News Express reports that Raiders officials toured the Alamodome and deemed NFL-ready and usable while a new stadium is built.

“We’re going to present San Antonio’s strengths and assets in the most persuasive way possible,” Cisneros told the newspaper. “We have a very, very good opportunity to set it forth in a way the Raiders can digest.”

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

Pryor, not McGloin to start home finale against Broncos

 

photos via San Jose Mercury

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Terrelle Pryor will start over Matt McGloin in the Raiders’ final home game of the season against the Denver Broncos Sunday, head coach Dennis Allen announced Monday during his weekly press conference per CSNBayArea.com’s Raiders Insider, Scott Bair.

Both Pryor and McGloin were notified of Allen’s decision earlier Monday morning.

“We got a chance to see Matt McGloin for six games,” Allen said. “I liked a lot of things that I saw in Matt. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten an opportunity to see Terrelle in a game and I want to get him in the game and get another opportunity to evaluate him.”

McGloin’s three-touchdown performance in a 28-23 victory over the Houston Texans in Week 11 gave Oakland a glimpse of a possible answer at the quarterback position, but McGloin played up-and-down to a 1-5 record while Oakland (4-11) lost five straight games including a 56-31 home drubbing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15 in which he threw four interceptions.

McGloin finished 20-for-36 for 206 yards and an interception in Oakland’s 26-13 loss in San Diego Sunday and it was clear that Oakland had seen enough.

Pryor goes back under center and should get a long look against the Broncos. Pryor played well against Denver back in Week 3, completing 19-for-28 passes for 281 yards, a touchdown with a career-high, 112.4 passer rating.

Denver (12-3) is coming into Oakland looking to wrap up the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC Playoffs. Denver wrapped up the AFC West with their 37-13 victory in Houston, coupled with Kansas City’s 23-7 loss to Indianapolis at Arrowhead.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, while breaking Tom Brady’s NFL-record 50 touchdown passes set in 2007, sending the down-trodden Texans to their 13th straight loss in the process. Manning threw the record-breaking touchdown to tight end Julius Thomas on a 25-yard pass in the fourth quarter, his third touchdown pass of the quarter.

In a season where he most likely collect his fifth league MVP award, Manning has a chance to set another record Sunday.

With a league-leading 5,211 yards passing this year, Manning needs 265 yards to surpass New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ NFL-record 5,476 set in 2011.

Manning loves to spread the ball around and with four targets with at least 10 touchdowns  like wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (86 catches, 1,377 yards, 12 TDs), Eric Decker (83 catches, 1,261 yards, 10 TDs), Wes Welker (73 catches, 778 yards, 10 TDs), and the previously mentioned tight end Thomas (60 catches, 752 yards, 12 TDs), its almost a safe bet that Manning breaks the record against the Raiders.

Kaepernick better than ever since week two and three

1-14-13-Colin-Kaepernick_full_600

By David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–Nobody expected the 49ers to lose last Sunday’s game in London the betting line was 16 points for the 49ers and the Niners covered the spread by double the amount of given points against Jacksonville with something like which was far too low the Niners won this one by 32.

Jacksonville is just an awful team and let’s give credit to the 49ers a game like this is one you could sleepwalk through and make it a lot closer than it should be. Let’s face it look at what the Jaguars did against the Denver Broncos just a few weeks ago they made just a little bit of noise in that one against a very good Denver team.

The 49ers did not let Jacksonville get into this game at all they didn’t let them sniff any smell of success. The 49ers were very focused their systems were shocked after those two loses in week two and three they haven’t really looked back as they’re now on a five game win streak. They’ve been a very different team since those games.

In their two loses to the Seahawks and Colts the 49ers were passing a bit more than they probably wanted to ever since then they focused more on their ground game which was their bread and butter. The last two seasons and when they got away from it they weren’t quite as successful and let’s face it part of the problem is that their wide receiving core has been decimated by injuries.

When all your options are gone and your left with a couple of guys it makes that much easier for defenses to take away those options and take the passing game out entirely. You saw against Indianapolis and Seattle the Niners were just stuck they couldn’t move the ball through the air and once the defenses realized they couldn’t move the ball in the air they were able to shut them down.

The 49ers have done a great job in the last five wins of establishing the running game early and working off of it and in the last two or three weeks we’ve really seen the passing game start to blossom again. Not a lot was made of it but Kaepernick did hurt his foot several weeks ago early in the season and while he was out of the game that foot injury kept him out and it might have kept him from being as mobile as he had been.

It might have kept him from making a number of passes that he was capable of. The last two or three weeks we’ve seen him really step up his game. Kaepernick is running a lot more, his passes are right on target, he’s doing a much better job finding his guys open and just making plays and we didn’t see that earlier on and I suspect this because that foot was bothering him a bit.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

After Seahawks and Colts loses 49ers are now on four game win streak

by David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–It’s funny the 49ers looked really good against the Green Bay Packers on opening day they won that first game and they looked really good. 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards and then they played Seattle and Indianapolis back to back and lost both games in what you might call embarrassing fashion.

The Niners really just got outclassed in both of those games maybe after those two games something woke up with them, maybe the embarrassment was enough for them to get back on track and maybe it was that they were playing two good teams. We all knew that Seattle was going to be tough and that the 49ers had their struggles up in Seattle.

So losing in Seattle wasn’t quite a big surprise losing to he Colts was a surprise at the time but in retrospect losing to the Colts wasn’t such a big surprise. It turned out that the Colts are a really good team, they weren’t only able to beat the 49ers but they beat the Seahawks just a couple of weeks ago. Then they went out on Monday night and beat the Denver Broncos.

The Colts are a good team and their a playoff force to be reckoned with the 49ers may have lost that game but you can’t be embarrassed about losing to the Colts because their apparently quite good. Someone said their one of the top five teams in the league if not top three. So no shame to losing a team that good the 49ers have used it to their advantage.

They have taken and fixed some of the problems in their offensive scheme and moved forward and their playing a lot better football even though they’ve had several injuries they had to fight through and they lost a couple of players here and there for a couple of games Patrick Willis lost a game or two, Ray McDonald was banged up, Aldon Smith is out on indefinite leave as he deals with his problems, and the 49ers are having continuing issues at wide receiver.

The 49ers they got back to do what they did best, their running the ball and passing when the opportunity presents itself and in the last several weeks running back Frank Gore has been just fantastic this is a guy who a lot of people wanted to write him off at age 30 who they said is washed up I don’t know why they would do that in the fact a lot of running backs tend to slow down when they hit that age.

You have to look at each player individually and at age 30 Gore looks just as good as ever maybe he’s not as quick as he once was but nobody is as patient as he is and nobody blocks better than Gore. While maybe he’s not going to break off a 70 yard run he breaks off more double digit runs than anybody in the league. Gore is as dependable as they come in this league he had a great game against the Titans scoring a couple of touchdowns from inside the ten yard line this is a guy whose a leader and when he does well you know the 49ers are going to do well.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

Manning makes history in win

By Jeremy Kahn

Peyton Manning is like a fine wine, he just gets better with age and he is proving it week after week.

Manning went 32-for-37 for 374 yards passing with three touchdowns, as the Denver Broncos defeated the Oakland Raiders 37-21 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

With the victory, the Broncos have won 14 consecutive regular games, tying the 1998 team for consecutive wins in team history and the Broncos won the Super Bowl that season over the Atlanta Falcons by the final score of 34-19 in Miami.

With three more touchdown passes on the evening, Manning passes Tom Brady for the most touchdown passes thru three games, as the 16-year veteran has thrown 12 touchdowns.

Brady set the record in 2011, and Manning has yet to be intercepted on the season, tying Michael Vick’s 2010 record when he threw 12 touchdowns before his frat interception.

Terrelle Pryor was forced to leave the game with a concussion, but before leaving, Pryor went 19-for-28 for 281 yards.

Pryor threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore that cut the Broncos down to 17-7 midway thru the second quarter.

Darren McFadden was held to just nine yards on the ground, but did throw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marcel Reece with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Jeremy Kahn hosts Sportstalk Radio right here on http://www.sportsradioservice.com/BRONCOS_RAIDERS_ES

Raiders face tough test in Denver

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Looking to build off the 19-9 victory in their home opener Sunday over the pathetic Jacksonville Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders head into Denver to face the Broncos on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to wrap up Week 3 in the NFL. Oakland picked up their first win of the season behind a stellar rushing attack, racking up 226 yards.

Running back Darren McFadden was a monster, rushing for 129 yards, including three runs of 20-or-more yards. Terrelle Pryor added in 50 rushing yards, while finishing 15-of-24 for 126 yards passing. Fullback Marcel Reese scored Oakland’s (1-1) only touchdown, on a 11-yard run in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.

What does that say?

Oakland will need more from Pryor and Co. but if Oakland has any chance of winning Monday night, it’s fifth-ranked defense will have to answer the bell against Denver’s third-ranked offense. Oakland leads the NFL with nine sacks on the season after sacking Jaguars quarterback, Chad Henne five times Sunday.  With the news of stellar Broncos’ All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady being lost for the season with a Lis-franc sprain, Oakland’s defensive line could be the difference.

Manning and the Broncos (2-0) return home after beating the New York Giants 41-23 at MetLife Stadium Sunday. After passing for a career-high seven touchdowns in Week 1, Manning was virtually flawless completing 30-of-43 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns in the road win. Denver’s offense totaled 416 yards.

Believe me after seeing that performance, Oakland will have it’s hands full against one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, but Raiders head coach welcomes the challenge.

“This will be the best team we’ve faced and they’re very talented,” Allen said Monday, “so we’re going to have to do a good job of changing things up and mixing some things up, mixing up some looks and be able to play a good, team game.”

Players to Watch for Oakland:

  • No. 2) Terrelle Pryor (QB) — Pryor picked up his first home win (and first win of his career) against Jacksonville and will look to pick up his first road win of his career on national television Monday night. Pryor leads all quarterbacks with 162 rushing yards.
  • No. 24) Charles Woodson (FS) — The Raiders’ veteran starting free safety will be the one who will have to get Oakland’s secondary in place to defend a bevy of Broncos pass-catchers. Woodson finished with six tackles against Jacksonville Sunday.
  • No. 25) D.J. Hayden (CB) — Manning loves testing rookies and Hayden will see a lot of Broncos’ sensational wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas. Good luck.

Players to Watch for Denver:

  • No. 83) Wes Welker (WR) — You think that Tom Brady wishes he had the reliable Welker now?
  • No. 80) Julian Thomas (TE) — Looks like a younger version of San Diego Chargers standout, Antonio Gates. Thomas played power forward at Portland St. In his first start, Thomas recorded five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
  • No. 11) Trindon Holliday (KR) — The reigning AFC Player of the Week  was a blur on his 81-yard punt return for a touchdown that put the final dagger in the Giants’ hearts. The return highlighted Holliday’s day, where he saw four punts and returning them for a 30.3 yards per return. Through two weeks, Holliday is averaging a league-high 19.6 yards per return.

49ers vs Broncos, preseason preview

By Gabe Schapiro

August 5, 2013

This Thursday, August 8 at 6pm, the preseason schedule kicks off when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park. This matchup features two of the league’s best squads from 2012, and the two odds-on-favorites to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Last season the Broncos finished 13-3, winning the AFC West before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. The San Francisco 49ers finished 11-4-1, winning the NFC West, before falling to the same Ravens in the Super Bowl.

First the obligatory disclaimer that this is still just preseason football. The outcomes don’t matter and aren’t indicative of how well a team will do during the regular season. Instead, it’s a time to hope for good health, to keep an eye on a few key position battles, to look for growth and improvement from key players, and to hope for good health some more.

San Francisco has already been dealt a couple of blows due to injuries, most notably to their top wideout Michael Crabtree who is expected to be out until at least around week 12 with a torn Achilles. He joins receiver Mario Manningham on the PUP list. The 49ers have a stockpile of receivers in camp vying for roster spots, with really only Anquan Boldin penciled in as a sure thing as the new go-to option for Colin Kaepernick. AJ Jenkins, Kyle Williams, Kassim Osgood, and rookie Quinton Patton have all also been limited or have missed several practices due to minor injuries. The team recently signed Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins to join the fray at the position, which also includes Ricardo Lockette, Marlon Moore, and Chad Hall. The wide receiving corp as a whole may be the biggest single thing to look for during the preseason, both in terms of who can stay on the field and who can seize the opportunity and fill out the depth chart behind Boldin.

More recently, San Francisco lost cornerback Chris Culliver for the season with a torn ACL. He had been penciled in as the team’s third corner behind Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. It’s a big blow at a position that already had questionable depth. Keep an eye on Nnamdi Asomugh, Tramaine Brock, and Perrish Cox who will be fighting to take over the spot.

The other major position battles to watch will be at kick and punt returner, free safety, and nose tackle.

LaMichael James appears to have the inside track to be the return specialist, as he is listed atop the first game release depth chart the 49ers have issued at both kick and punt returner. He struggled when he was given brief looks at returning punts last season, but reportedly has impressed during camp.

At free safety, CJ Spillman is currently listed as the starter. First round pick Eric Reid, who the team traded up to get, however, is still considered the favorite to start game one of the regular season. Craig Dahl has reportedly had a very strong spring, but is on the outside looking in at this point.

Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey are fighting it out for the nose tackle spot. Both have been performing well at camp, but Williams has the edge.

Notes: Star linebacker Patrick Willis suffered a fracture in his right hand, which will require surgery. Willis has a history of broken hands, and most importantly a history of playing through them without missing a step. He is still expected to be ready to go for the season opener against the Packers, but will be sitting out Thursday’s preseason opener.