Raiders head to Mexico City following bye week for big showdown against Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady practices at Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The Patriots are practicing at Air Force to get acclimated to playing at a higher elevation for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City. (Doug Brownlie/The Gazette via AP)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — For the second straight year, the Raiders will travel to Mexico City for a “home” game at Estadio Azteca. Last year, the Silver and Black came away with a 27-20 victory over the “visiting” Houston Texans before worldwide audience on Monday Night Football.

This season, Oakland will face a much tougher opponent when they “host” the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots Sunday in a pivotal Week 11 matchup for both teams in the AFC.

Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT.

Oakland (4-5) is coming off a much needed bye week after dispatching the Dolphins 27-24 in Miami in Week 9. Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr played efficiently, passing for 300 yards on 21-of-30 completions with one touchdown and one interception for a quarterback rating of 99.3. For the season, Carr has thrown for 1,954 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a quarterback rating of 91.8.

Offensively, the Raiders rank 22nd overall, but rank 16th in the NFL in points per game (21.6) after ranking in the top-10 last season scoring nearly 28 points per game through 16 games.

Starting running back Marshawn Lynch returned from a one-game suspension to run for 57 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns on the night. The two rushing touchdowns by Lynch were the first scores for Lynch away from home this season.

Tight end Jared Cook had a big night, leading all receivers with eight catches for 127 yards. Wide receiver Johnny Holton scored his second touchdown of the season on the game’s biggest play for the Raiders when Holton reeled in a 44-yard touchdown throw from Carr in the first half. Holton has just two catches this season, both of which have gone for touchdowns of 44 and 64 yards.

Defensively, middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the Raiders in tackles for the third straight game with 10. Dating back to his final game with the San Francisco 49ers against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, Bowman has recorded 10-plus tackles in four straight games this season.

Through nine games this season, the Raiders still have yet to record an interception, which is a very dubious record in the NFL for one team to own especially for the Raiders, who will face a quarterback that has only thrown just two interceptions this season in Tom Brady.

Following a 2-2 start to the season, New England (7-2) has won five straight games and are rounding into form at the right time.

The 40-year-old Brady enters Week 11 leading the NFL in passing yards (2,807), tied with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for the most touchdown passes (19) and second behind Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in quarterback rating (113.9 to 108.3) this season.

Brady completed 25-of-34 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in New England’s 41-16 smashing victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football in Week 10. The five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback leads a Patriots offense that is No. 1 in total yards per game (409.6) and fourth in points per game (28.6) this season.

That’s not good news for a Raiders defense that rank 26th in total defense surrendering 361.1 total yards per game to opposing teams this season. Oakland is allowing 23.8 points per game.

Wide receiver Brandon Cooks led New England with six receptions and was tied with tight end Rob Gronkowski for the most receiving yards on the team with 74 against the Broncos.

Starting running back Dion Lewis left his imprint on the game, leading the Patriots with 14 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown but it was his play on special teams that gave New England the upper hand against Denver.

After Denver kicker Brandon McManus made a 39-yard field goal that made the score 7-3 in the first quarter, Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown that gave the Patriots a 14-3 lead before the Broncos blinked. Lewis, along with fellow running back James White and fullback Rex Burkhead are Brady’s security blanket when guys like Gronkowski and wide receiver Brandon Cooks are covered.

White leads the team in receptions (46), Cooks in receiving yards (637) and Gronkowski and wide receiver Chris Hogan in receiving touchdowns (5), making the Patriots’ offense a multi-dimensional unit, engineered by Brady.

Defensively, the Patriots will give up a ton of yards per game (408.3) but teams are scoring just 21.7 points per game. Safety Devin McCourty leads the team with 58 tackles (50 solo), while cornerback Malcolm Butler has two of the team’s seven interceptions this season.

Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Trey Flowers lead New England with 3.5 sacks each. Flowers is second on the team with 55 tackles (46 solo).

Following Sunday’s game, Oakland will return to the Coliseum to take on the Broncos, while New England will host the Dolphins in Week 12.

 

 

Raiders travel to Buffalo for Week 8 matchup with Bills Sunday

Photo credit: @BNBlitzNow

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — After having 10 days off, the Raiders get back on the football field this Sunday as they travel east to take on the Buffalo Bills in a key matchup for Week 8.

Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. ET or 10:00 a.m. PT for all you (including me) west coasters.

Last Thursday night, the Silver and Black got back into the win column with a 31-30 comeback victory over their bitter rival, the Kansas City Chiefs. Oakland (3-4) were down six late in the fourth quarter before starting quarterback Derek Carr engineered an 11-play, 85-yard drive in 2:25 that resulted on a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree as time expired.

Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio’s PAT on the next play proved to be the difference maker, snapping Oakland’s four-game losing streak following a 2-0 start.

In the process, Carr earned his NFL-leading 12th comeback victory since 2015. Carr completed 29-of-52 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns with 101.2 passer rating.

Amari Cooper had a career-night, hauling in 11 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns of 38 and 45 yards. Cooper’s 210 yards ranked second in single-game franchise history to Art Powell’s 247 yards in 1963.

Cooper was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for his offensive outburst against the Chiefs.

Just to put Cooper’s performance in a bigger perspective: after recording five catches for 62 yards and one touchdown in Oakland’s 26-16 victory in Tennessee in Week 1, Cooper struggled, recording just 13 catches for 84 yards and no touchdowns in Weeks 2-6.

Tight end Jared Cook made big plays also against a good Chiefs defense, catching six passes for 107 yards, including a 27-yard reception on the Raiders’ final drive to setup Oakland at the Kansas City 1-yard line.

On defense, newly signed middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman led Oakland with 11 tackles on the night.

During pregame introductions, Bowman was greeted with a loud ovation from Raider Nation. Bowman spent his first seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers where he was voted to three Pro Bowl teams (in 2012, ’13, ’15) and four All-Pro teams (in 2011-13, ’15).

Oakland will head into Buffalo without the services for starting running back Marshawn Lynch, who has been suspended by the NFL for one game after making contact with an official during Thursday’s contest.

Lynch was ejected in the first half after he ran onto the field and made contact with an official after trying to separate Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters from a scrum that broke out. The Raiders starting running back was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected.

Lynch and Peters are cousins from West Oakland. Peters actually testified on Lynch’s behalf at his appeal hearing, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Buffalo (4-2) is coming off a 30-27 victory at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7.

Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 20-of-33 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown with a 98.5 passer rating. Taylor is a mobile quarterback that can give the Raiders problems as he can make plays in the running game too.

Running back LeSean McCoy racked up 91 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay. Not only does McCoy lead the Bills with 370 yards rushing on 110 carries this season, but he’s Buffalo’s top receiver, leading the team with 32 catches and his second behind tight end Charles Clay with 220 yards receiving through six games.

Clay leads Buffalo with 258 yards receiving.

Defensively, Buffalo ranks fourth in the NFL in points surrendered, allowing just 16.8 points per game. Oakland’s offense ranks 15th in the league, scoring 22.1 points per game.

Buffalo ranks seventh in the league in stopping the run, allowing just 84.5 yards rushing per game.

Buffalo’s secondary is one of the strongest in the league, led by safety Micah Hyde who is tied for the league lead with four interceptions. Hyde signed a five-year, $30.5 million deal with Buffalo in the offseason after spending his first four seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

Sunday’s game in Buffalo marks the first of a two-game swing through the AFC East for Oakland. The Raiders travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins in Week 9.

Oakland is already 1-0 against the AFC East this year, after blasting the New York Jets 45-20 in Week 2 in the Raiders’ home opener.

The Raiders have won two of the last three meetings with Buffalo (in 2014 and ’16), while the Bills last defeated Oakland in 2011.

 

 

 

 

Raiders prepare for short turnaround with KC Chiefs rolling into Oakland for Thursday Night Football

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) runs the football during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. The Steelers defeated the Chiefs, 19-13. (Ryan Kang via AP)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — If I told fans of the Silver and Black if their beloved Raiders would be sitting at 2-4 after the first six weeks of the season, many of them would want to toss me in a garbage can and roll me down a hill.

Well, the Raiders are 2-4 and their  2017 NFL season is circling the drain in a major way.

With the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) traveling to the Black Hole this week for the first of two meetings with Oakland this season on Thursday Night Football at 5:25 p.m. PT, the second game is Dec. 10 in Kansas City, this is a true must win game for the Silver and Black if they have any chance of saving their season.

Oakland is coming off a tough 17-16 loss at home to the visiting L.A. Chargers Sunday, their fourth-straight loss following a 2-0 start to the season. It was also the fourth-straight game that the Silver and Black was held under 20 points in a game.

After missing Oakland’s 30-17 loss at home in Week 5 to the Baltimore Ravens with a back injury, starting quarterback Derek Carr returned to action for the Silver and Black against the Chargers in Week 6, completing 21-of-30 passes for 171 yards with a touchdown but threw two interceptions. Carr threw a 23-yard touchdown to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who led the team with six catches for 52 yards on 10 targets.

Running back Marshawn Lynch recorded 63 of Oakland’s 109 rushing yards on 13 carries. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson took a handoff and blazed past the Chargers’ defense for a 47-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Defensively for Oakland, linebacker Bruce Irvin recorded his second sack of the season to go along with six tackles. Cornerback TJ Carrie led Oakland with eight tackles. Oakland allowed 343 yards of total offense to the Chargers, with most of the damage coming from running back Melvin Gordon.

Gordon was the Chargers’ offense, with a 150 total yards (83 rushing and 67 receiving) on 34 touches (25 rushes and nine catches) and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving). Second-year tight end Hunter Henry gave the Raiders fits on Sunday, hauling in five catches for 90 yards.

With the addition of four-time All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman to the defense, the Raiders are hoping that the middle linebacker position will be stabilized for the rest of the year.

Bowman, a seven-year pro out of Penn State, requested his release from the San Francisco 49ers on Friday after losing playing time, signed a one-year deal worth $3 million on Monday.

Kansas City was the last team to lose a game this season after dropping a 19-13 contest to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6, giving the Steelers their third straight win over the Chiefs in the last two seasons, counting last year’s meeting in the playoffs.

Strangely, Sunday’s matchup between Pittsburgh and Kansas City was eerily similar to their playoff game in January, an 18-16 Steelers’ win on Kansas City’s home turf.

Chiefs starting quarterback Alex Smith completed just 19-of-34 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown, a 57-yard pass to wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas in the fourth quarter that pulled Kansas City within 12-10 with 6:13 left in the game.

Pittsburgh shut down the NFL’s hottest offense, limiting the Chiefs to 251 yards of total offense and holding the NFL’s top scoring offense per game (32.8) to just 13 points.

Smith leads the league in passer rating (119.2), second in touchdown passes (12) and is third in passing yards (1,637). Kansas City’s signal-caller has yet to throw an interception in 202 passes this season.

The Steelers also held the NFL’s top rusher, rookie running back Kareem Hunt, to just nine carries for 21 yards.

But Pittsburgh sliced up a very good Chiefs defense by racking up 439 yards of total offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 252 yards on 17-of-25 passes with a touchdown and one interception. Eight of Roethlisberger’s completions went to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who hauled in 155 yards and a 51-yard touchdown catch that put Pittsburgh up 19-10 in the fourth quarter.

Running back Le’Veon Bell found gaping holes in the Chiefs’ run defense, carrying the ball 32 times for 179 yards and a touchdown. Bell also rushed for 170 yards against Kansas City in the playoffs.

The Chiefs have great playmakers in cornerback and Oakland native, Marcus Peters and fellow cornerback Terrance Mitchell. Peters and Mitchell each have two interceptions this season for a Chiefs secondary that have five for the year, pacing 13th in the NFL.

Veteran linebacker Justin Houston leads Kansas City with 5.5 sacks, ranking seventh in the NFL.

Kansas City sits on top of the AFC West, while Oakland is sitting in the basement of the division. With a win for Kansas City, it could be the final nail in the coffin of the Raiders’ season as it will drop the team to 2-5 and put the season on life support.

But, win on Thursday night on primetime, and it could put the team back on course.

Kansas City has won the last five-straight games against Oakland, with the Raiders’ last victory over the Chiefs, coincidentally, on Nov. 20, 2014, which was a game on Thursday Night Football.

The 0-10 Raiders defeated the 7-3 Chiefs 24-20 in a rainy game in Oakland.

Thursday night’s game will conclude Oakland’s three-game homestand, with Oakland’s next game coming in Buffalo on Oct. 29.

 

 

 

 

O’Neil schemed defense outshines Chip Kelly’s offense in season-opening shutout of the Rams

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By Morris Phillips

SANTA CLARA–Los Angeles’ professional football renaissance–23 years in the making–will have to wait one more week.  The 49ers saw to that.

A stifling defense effort, packed with strategical wrinkles courtesy of new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, kept quarterback Case Keenum and dynamic running threat Todd Gurley under wraps for 60 minutes in the 49ers 28-0 victory.

The Rams, bereft of points, had to settle for first downs instead, managing just 10 of those on the night.  Keenum failed to keep his offense on the field, throwing for just 130 yards and converting 3 of 15 third down opportunities.  Forced to beat the 49ers through the air with Gurley (17 carries, 47 yards) bottled up, Keenum failed miserably. Afterwards, the veteran quarterback tabbed by coach Jeff Fisher over Sean Mannion and No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, credited the 49ers and their crafty looks.

“Especially on third down, a lot of looks we hadn’t seen before,” Keenum said.

Maybe the most effective of those looks schemed by O’Neil had safety Eric Reid crashing the line of scrimmage in search of Gurley and others. While credited with only three tackles, Reid was a focal point, along with linebacker NaVorro Bowman, for a defense that swarmed to the ball and was rarely caught out of position.

“He is physical and he is fast,” O’Neil said of Reid.  “He did a good job of timing it up. We tell our guys that we are only going to blitz the guys that are going to win.  Eric is a guy that can go win.”

While Reid starred along with Bowman, the San Francisco defensive line with emerging stars  Arik Armstead and Quinton Dial did the dirty work, staying in their lanes to combat Gurley, and getting enough penetration to bother Keenum. Armstead was declared a guy to watch early on in training camp, but rarely played in the pre-season because of a shoulder injury.  On Monday, O’Neil deployed his 6’7″ disrupter sparingly, but effectively.

“We had a game plan for how to use me in the game,” Armstead said.  “I  played a lot of passing situations and I rotated in there on first and second downs, too.”

Dial played directly in front of Bowman and kept him “clean” as radio color man Tim Ryan described.  But Dial did even more, deftly splitting double-teaming linemen in run situations.  First round draft pick DeForest Buckner rotated with college teammate Armstead, giving the 49ers an edge in combating the Rams’ top offensive tackle Rodger Saffold.

“I think that’s a good thing about the players we have on our team.  We can give you different personnel and give you different looks.  Guys can play their positions well.  It’s definitely going to pay dividends for us in helping us disguise our looks for opposing quarterbacks,” safety Antoine Bethea said.

The shutout was the team’s first since 2012, and they protected it fiercely as the satisfied Levi’s Stadium crowd headed for the exits in the fourth quarter.  The Rams longest drive of the night–11 plays–brought them to the 49ers 24-yard line.  But with no interest in a face-saving field goal attempt, Keenum was flushed and scrambled unsuccessfully on 4th-and-10 with 2:41 remaining.

For O’Neil, it had to be a redemptive moment.  Picked after several higher profile coordinators rejected the 49ers, the former Browns OC accepted the unenviable task of working opposite Kelly’s high octane offense that frequently leaves its defense fatigued from too many stints on the field.  But on Monday, the mix was just right as Kelly was politely upstaged in his debut.

On Sunday, the 49ers travel to Carolina with, for now, the NFL’s top-ranked defense for a more telling meeting with Cam Newton and the reigning NFC champion Panthers.

 

 

49ers seek sixth straight win in regular season finale in Arizona

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (11-4) will be facing off with the Arizona Cardinals (10-5) in the regular season finale, at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers are in second place in the NFC West, one game behind the Seattle Seahawks. They will clinch a division title with a win Sunday and a Seahawks loss. They have already sealed a playoff birth. The Cardinals are in third in the NFC West, one game back of San Francisco. To get into the playoffs Arizona must win, along with a New Orleans Saints loss.

Last weekend the 49ers outlasted the Atlanta Falcons, winning 34-24, in Candlestick’s swan song. The game remained close throughout, with a huge NaVorro Bowman 89-yard interception return with 1:10 remaining in the game hammering the final nail in the coffin. Colin Kaepernick completed 13-of-21 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 51 yards on the ground and a rushing score. Frank Gore rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Michael Crabtree continues to shake the rust off, and had five receptions and 102 yards. Vernon Davis was uncharacteristically held without a catch on three targets.

San Francisco had more trouble than some expected last weekend with the struggling Falcons, but still got the job done. They have won five straight and are looking to make it six before heading into the playoffs. To get to number six they’ll have a tough task, having to beat one of the league’s hottest squads in the Cardinals. They’ve won three straight, including a big upset over Seattle last weekend, and are 7-1 in their last eight contests.

Arizona’s offense has been very middle of the road this season. At quarterback veteran Carson Palmer can still make plays, but is mistake prone. He is among the league leaders with 21 interceptions. At wide receiver he has the always dangerous Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. He has been slowed due to injuries this season, but remains a threat. Michael Floyd has emerged as a strong secondary threat, and leads the team in receiving yards. Rashard Mendenhall has been their go-to back for much of the season, but Andre Ellington has proven to be an explosive change of pace option. As a unit they rank 16th in the NFL in points per game.

The Cardinals defense is far and away their strongest asset. Linebacker Karlos Dansby is having a great season, Patrick Peterson has stepped into his own in the secondary, and the pass-rushing two-headed monster of Calais Campbell and John Abraham have been a force. They allow the sixth fewest points per game, and are especially stout against the run. Surrendering just 84.5 rushing yards per game, they are the league’s best.

This matchup will be a classic case of great running game going up against a great run defense. In their week 6 meeting, Frank Gore still managed to run for 101 yards on 25 carries, but the Cardinals have been at their best recently. Look for Kaepernick and an ever-improving Crabtree to make some significant moves in the passing attack, where Arizona is much more vulnerable.

49ers provide the big finish in the final game at Candlestick

By Morris Phillips

Like many of the truly great football games played at Candlestick Park over the years, this one was contentious and very much in doubt late in the fourth quarter.

And like all those great games of the past, someone in a red jersey and gold helmet made a game-winning play just as NaVorro Bowman did on Monday night.

The 49ers saved their best for last in the final regular season game at Candlestick, beating the Falcons, 34-24, in large part due to Bowman’s interception and 89-yard return for a touchdown with Atlanta driving for the winning score with less than two minutes remaining.

“(Bowman and Falcon Harry Douglas) were both going to the spot and the ball bounced up and that was a play that changed the game,” Falcons Coach Mike Smith recounted.

“The Catch is ‘The Catch.’  There will never be another catch, but this was a great moment,” Coach Jim Harbaugh said.

On a night that was preordained to be 49ers, start to finish, the Falcons obviously were presented a different script.  The NFC finalists from a year ago came in limping with a 4-10 record but they switched to a strut for much of the first half, and more significantly, late in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons led at the half, 10-3.   Then after the 49ers responded with 17 straight points, capped by Colin Kaepernick’s 4-yard touchdown run, the Falcons came up with two fourth quarter scores and an improbable recovery of Matt Bryant’s onside kick.  That set up the big finish with Atlanta driving deep in 49ers’ territory, trailing 27-24.

Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan attempted to squeeze in a pass to Douglas on a slant but the Atlanta tight end was immediately engaged with 49ers’ nickel back Tramaine Brock who fought Douglas for the ball until it popped up and free and into the hands of Bowman, who was closing in to make a tackle.

Bowman then turned on the jets, accompanied by Patrick Willis and Eric Reid, on a race down the sideline that ended with the All-Pro linebacker airborne into the end zone with the likely final touchdown at the 54-year old stadium.

“I was excited, it was an amazing play by T. Brock and Bowman,” Kaepernick said.  “For him to finish it out that way, it was great.”

While Bowman finished off the Falcons, Kaepernick started the process with one of his best running and passing performances of the season.  Kap finished 13 for 21 and 197 yards through the air, but his six carries for 51 yards sparked the 49ers’ second half rally.   The third-year quarterback also energized Michael Crabtree, who had his best outing since returning from the Achilles injury with five catches for 102 yards.

Crabtree’s 47-yard catch and run highlighted the 49ers’ opening drive of the second half that ended with Kaepernick connecting with Anquan Boldin on a 10-yard pass and score.

The 49ers (11-4) clinched a wild card berth with the win, but with the Seahawks losing to Arizona over the weekend, the 49ers remain alive for the NFC West title and the NFC’s No. 1 seed.  The unlikely path to the division crown would require that Seattle loses its home finale to the Rams, while the 49ers beat the Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona.

The 49ers will have to be wary of a loud and boisterous crowd in Arizona with the Cardinals still clinging to slim playoff hopes themselves.   Arizona would need to beat the 49ers while seeing the Saints lose their home finale to the Buccaneers.  The NFL has manufactured additional drama by scheduling the Saints game in the afternoon window at the same time as the 49ers-Cardinals game.

The all–to–sudden final football game at Candlestick Park came with plenty of ceremony courtesy of appearances by Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Bubba Paris, Dwight Clark and Giants’ legends Wille McCovey and Willie Mays as well.  ESPN’s Chris Berman hosted a 15-minute post-game celebration that ended with a singing appearance by Philadelphia singing group Boyz II Men.Image

49ers looking to build on last week as Texans come to town

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday the San Francisco 49ers (2-2) will look to build off of their road victory last week when the Houston Texans (2-2) come to Candlestick Park.

As was the speculation leading up to last Thursday’s game, following two bad losses the 49ers reverted back to the ground-and-pound style they are best known for, and throttled the St. Louis Rams, 35-11. Frank Gore had his first big game of the season, gaining 153 yards and a touchdown on just 20 carries. In a team effort, they ran for a total of 219 yards. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t flashy, but he managed the game well and avoided any big mistakes. On the defensive side NaVorro Bowman was the standout, more than making up for the absence of Patrick Willis, tallying six tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass deflected.

On the flip side, the Texans are fresh off of a crushing loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Houston dominated for much of the game and carried a 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter.  Seattle rallied late, however, and completed the comeback thanks to Matt Schaub’s third pick-six in as many games.

Following consecutive losses the Texans will be looking to regroup, much like the 49ers were last week, and they could very well present a tougher task than what San Francisco saw in the St. Louis. While he is prone to mistakes Shaub remains a solid quarterback when they don’t ask too much from him. The real weapons to fear on offense, however, are running back Arian Foster and top receiver Andre Johnson, both of whom have been among the leagues best for years. Johnson has been nursing some injuries this year, but both are coming off of very strong games last week. As a unit they have compiled the fourth most yards, but have only scored the 18th most points.

On defense they are led by the three-headed monster of J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and Whitney Mercilus. The disruptive force has accounted for eight and a half sacks this season, and will present a challenge for the 49ers offensive line. As a whole their defense has the odd distinction of having allowed the second fewest yards, but the ninth most points on the year.

As they did last week, look for San Francisco to try and establish the running game early and often, and limit the risks Kaepernick has to take. While Houston’s defense has been strong, stopping the run has been their Achilles heel, having allowed the tenth most rushing yards per game. With Kaepernick still having few weapons at his disposal, he may struggle in the passing game.

On the injury front, Patrick Willis is still recovering from his groin injury, and is expected to be a game-time decision. Vernon Davis has been limited at practice this week, but mostly as a precaution, and is expected to be active. In another blow for the depleted receiving corps, it was revealed this week that Quinton Patton suffered a fractured foot in the win over the Rams. It is not yet clear how much time he is expected to miss. The best news of the week is that offensive lineman Joe Staley is fine after momentarily fearing a serious ankle injury.

Finally, the 49ers also made a few minor roster moves this week. QB B.J. Daniels and FB Owen Marecic were waived, and QB John Skelton and LB Jermaine Cunningham were both signed.

Gore tramples Rams on the way to 49ers win, 35-11

By Gabe Schapiro

September 26, 2013

On Thursday night the San Francisco 49ers (2-2) returned to their roots, and in a ground and pound game dominated the St. Louis Rams (1-3), at a final score of 35-11. As many expected they would following two bad losses, the 49ers featured Frank Gore early and often, and he managed to run all over St. Louis, finishing with 153 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries. As a team they finished with 219 yards on the ground. Colin Kaepernick played a smaller role, but avoided mistakes and made plays when he had to.

Both teams came out of the gate a little slow. The Rams offense seemed to click first, managing to string a few plays together. As a result they got on the board first, with a 40-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein to give them an early 3-0 lead. St. Louis, however, struggled to find an answer for the 49ers defense from there.

Through most of the first quarter the San Francisco offense looked eerily similar to the past two weeks, with Kaepernick struggling to find open receivers and a couple of long runs from Frank Gore being their only positive gains. Heading into the second quarter, things took a turn for the better. Halfway through the quarter Kaepernick orchestrated an 80-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by two long connections to Anquan Boldin, including a 20-yard touchdown grab on third-down and twenty. The touchdown was there first score in over 73 minutes, and the 7-3 score represented their first lead since the opener against Green Bay.

Their improved play continued. On the next Rams possession Donte Whitner intercepted a deflected pass from Sam Bradford in the end zone. The 49ers again immediately mounted a drive, culminating in a huge 34-yard touchdown run from Gore on a fourth-and-one play, bringing the score to 14-3.

By this point in the game the Rams looked lost, repeatedly going three-and-out. Meanwhile, San Francisco kept piling on.

In the third quarter Kaepernick and co. marched down the field with relative ease again, to the tune of an 88-yard, 11-play touchdown drive than took over five minutes off the clock. This time it was a 12-yard pass to Vernon Davis in the corner if the end zone that finished it off, giving them a 21-3 lead.

In the fourth, during garbage time, the Rams finally found the end zone, but it was sandwiched between two more 49er touchdowns. Anthony Dixon punched in a one-yard touchdown run following a San Francisco fumble recovery on the three yard-line, and Kendall Hunter got into the action as well, scampering in for a 29-yarder of his own. Hunter’s run put this game on ice, bringing the final to 35-11.

Kaepernick finished the game with 15 completions on 23 attempts, 167 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He did fumble once in the fourth quarter on a muffed hand-off attempt, but by that point the game was out-of-reach.

Boldin was the teams leading receiver, hauling in five receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown. In addition, rookie Quinton Patton and Jon Baldwin played small roles, but both had their first career receptions in a 49ers uniform.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker NaVorro Bowman was the star, and more than filled the void left by the absence of Patrick Willis. He was all over the field, and racked up six tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and deflected a pass. Ahmad Brooks had a good game as well, chipping in seven tackles and one and a half sacks.

While it was almost nothing but good news on this night, it did appear as though the 49ers may have a couple new additions to the injury report. Patton limped off the field in the second quarter and did not return. In the fourth, Joe Staley had his legs caught in a pile up. He walked off the field under his own power, but was doing so very gingerly. No report yet as to how severe either injury is, but they will have a long week to hopefully recover.

Next week San Francisco returns home to take on the Houston Texans on Sunday October 6, at 5:25 PM.