49ers seeking revenge against Seahawks

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (8-4) face off against their division rival Seattle Seahawks (11-1), at Candlestick Park. The 49ers are in second place in the NFC West and currently sit in the sixth and final playoff spot out of the NFC. The Seahawks are in first place in the NFC West, three games up on San Francisco.

Last weekend the 49ers won their second consecutive game, a 23-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams. The 10 point win makes the game look closer than it was, as the game was largely dominated by San Francisco. The Rams didn’t score a touchdown until garbage time, with 18 seconds left in the game. In an outing that was a little out of character, it was the 49ers passing attack that did most of the damage. Colin Kaepernick completed 19 of 28 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. Michael Crabtree made his 2013-14 debut, catching two passes for 68 yards. Anquan Boldin led the team with nine receptions for 98 yards, and Vernon Davis hauled in his 10th touchdown catch of the season. Frank Gore had a relatively quiet afternoon, rushing for 42 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Kaepernick’s play has seen an uptick in recent weeks. The 275 yards through the air are the most he has compiled since Week 1. With Crabtree still working his way back into the fold, their pass offense should only get better from here.

Gore, on the other hand, has struggled a bit to get things going. He hasn’t rushed for more than 48 yards over the past three weeks, with just one touchdown over that stretch.

Both will need to be on their A games this week, as the extremely tough Seahawks come into town. On Monday Night Seattle made one of the better teams in the league, the New Orleans Saints, look like a JV squad. Thankfully for the 49ers, the Seahawks don’t play quite as well on the road, but they are none-the-less one of the best teams in football. Back in Week 2 when these teams played in Seattle, San Francisco was overwhelmed, losing 29-3.

The Seahawks offense is led by impressive sophomore QB Russell Wilson. Like Kaepernick, he is just as likely to hurt you with his arm as he is with his legs. He has been on a hot streak, throwing for two or more touchdowns in six consecutive games. He spreads the ball around, but his favorite targets this season have been Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. They are a run-first team, however, with most of the work going to powerhouse Marshawn Lynch. As a unit they have scored the second most points per game in the league this season.

It is their defense that really makes them such a daunting task, however. Seven different players have recorded two or more sacks this season, and eight have at least one interception. Richard Shermon is the stalwart in the secondary, and Cliff Avril and Michael Bennet are the big pass rushers. They have allowed the fewest total yards in the NFL, and allow the second least points per game.

Their defense does have an Achilles heel, and that is their run defense. They are a very pedestrian 16th in the league, which is going to be an area the 49ers need to key in on in order to revenge their Week 2 loss. In Week 2 they ran the ball just 20 times, compared to 28 pass attempts. Nine of those 20 came from Kaepernick scrambles. For a team who thrives the most when playing a ground and pound game, and features Gore, that can’t be the same ratio this time around.

Look for Crabtree to try and open up some things through the air, but the Seahawks are so elite at defending the pass, that San Francisco’s success hinges on their ability to run the ball.

The injury report hasn’t change much since last week, but one of the few changes is a big one. Tackle Joe Staley left last weekends game in the first quarter, and has since been diagnosed with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He will miss the showdown with the Seahawks, and his timetable for recovery beyond that is uncertain. Kaepernick, Gore, and company will certainly miss him up against the leagues best defense.

49ers at Seahawks, week 2 preview

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday, September 15 at 5:30 PM, the San Francisco 49ers (1-0) will be taking on their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Last season the Seahawks surprised many by finishing the season 11-5 just behind the 49ers in the NFC West, and clinched a Wild Card birth. In the playoffs they were eliminated by the Atlanta Falcons in a tightly contest divisional playoff matchup, losing by a final score of 30-28. The upstart Seattle squad, led by QB Russell Wilson, brings an extremely talented team back this season who most expect to once again challenge San Francisco for the NFC West division crown.

Last weekend the 49ers came away with a victory over the Green Bay Packers in what turned into another high scoring affair, 34-28. These two NFL powerhouses traded scores four times before San Francisco managed to grab onto the lead for good with just under six minutes remaining in the game. Colin Kaepernick and new wide receiver Anquan Boldin were the unquestioned stars from this one. Kaepernick, who is perhaps known best for his running ability, showed that he can beat you with his arm as well, throwing for a career high 412 yards and three touchdowns. Boldin, who was acquired via trade this past offseason from the Baltimore Ravens for a sixth round draft pick, clearly wanted to make a good first impression in his debut. He hauled in 13 receptions for an incredible 208 yards and a touchdown. That total was just nine yards shy of his career high.

The 49ers hope to carry their momentum from the big win in their season opener into week 2, which presents another tough matchup. Kaepernick already appears to be living up to the hype and then some in his sophomore season. In addition, their offense seemed to barely miss a beat despite the loss of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Their defense didn’t perform like most have gotten used to seeing, but Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense isn’t one that any time will have an easy time totally keeping in check. They limited their run game, managed to get to Rodgers for a couple of sacks, and rookie safety Eric Reid had seven tackles and an interception in an impressive debut.

Despite Wilson’s talents, the Seattle offense isn’t as explosive as Green Bay’s, but their defense is stronger. So they will prove to be a very different puzzle for coach John Harbaugh and company to solve. Last weekend the Seahawks struggled more than most expected they would against the Carolina Panthers, losing for much of the game before squeaking out a victory with a late come back. It remains to be seen whether it was more of a statement about Seattle or Carolina, but regardless a hard fought game should be expected this weekend.

For these two teams who had almost identical records last season and split the season series, expect more fireworks to fly when they renew this budding rivalry, even if they are more of the gritty hardnosed variety rather than the highflying action seen last week.

Lots of jobs open at Raiders camp

By David Zizmor

August 3, 2013

 
hi-res-7421044_crop_650x440

NAPA–With the players trying out at the Raiders camp in Napa it is a full on 100 percent competition for pretty much every single position on the field and that’s including quarterback. Matt Flynn is the Raiders presumptive choice at QB unless Terrelle Pryor beats him out. Comparing them to the 49ers your going to see the starters from one to 82 series. With the Raiders your going to see the presumptive starters or at least a quarter maybe two because the Raiders really don’t know who is who it could be anybody.

So what you have to do is watch every single player on the field they’re all potential starters maybe you can say Darren McFadden is a sure thing but your not going to see a lot of him because they don’t want him getting hurt in the early pre season with that injury history. All across the field just look at every single position look at how well they perform and how much passion they play with. That’s probably the big part of the Raiders philosophy this year.

For the Raiders they just don’t want good players they want players who play hard that’s something they struggled with at times last year. So whether it’s the offense or the defense your just looking for guys to stand out. It’s not the same as the 49ers the 49ers have guys on their team who you know who are going to be the starters. Justin Smith is not all of a sudden going to be benched neither is Colon Kaepernick, or Frank Gore.

With the Raiders there is no such thing as a sure thing on this team anybody can get a starting position and anyone could lose a starting position which means pre season might be a little exciting because you don’t know whose going to emerge. So your going to have to watch at least the first half of these Raiders games to see how well they do. If someone starts to perform well in game one against the Cowboys in pre season and continues that into game two they could become your next starter.

At this stage it’s anybody’s guess as to who those players will be but for right now the Raiders are going to give everyone on that squad a chance to emerge as a contributor potentially a star and certainly as a starter and we’ll have to wait to see with the Raiders it’s going to go game to game as they approach it but it will be fun to watch.

On the quarterback front it’s the assumption that Matt Flynn will be Oakland’s starting quarterback I don’t think the Raiders went out to get him with the intent of benching him. He’s not a cheap player and he’s not super expensive either but he’s not cheap by Raiders standards anyways. So you have to assume that the Raiders wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t want to start him but remember the Seattle Seahawks traded for Lynn last year and he ended up getting benched as Russell Wilson started the season for the Seahawks and Flynn never saw very much time on the field.

The same thing could happen to him here we don’t know and that all depends on the quality of the backup and depends on how Terrelle Pryor plays and if Pryor comes in and starts lighting things up he could do the same thing. The difference is we’ve seen Pryor a little bit and it doesn’t seem like he has Wilson’s ability to command an offense it’s a huge difference. It’s not something they take lightly.

That’s why Pryor will not be the starter this season in Oakland but with Flynn we don’t know what his ability is over the course of a season if this is a guy whose only started a couple of games in injury situations and while he does well in those we haven’t seen him in the course of eight, or nine, ten games to really judge what he can really do over the course of time. So if he plays a couple of games and starts to falter and continues to falter then you might see Pryor get a chance at some point during the season.

Getting named the starter for game one this Friday against the Broncos is not going to insure that the Raiders starter will be the starter in game ten of the NFL season. It’s going to be a week to week proposition as it will be with most players on the Raiders, it’s going to be a performance issue. You have to keep performing to prove yourself from week to week in order to maintain your starting job. So that applies to the quarterback position, you don’t like that to be the case because you want your quarterback to be as rock solid as possible but that’s not the position the Raiders are in.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio