Raiders look to make it two in a row, face Rams in St. Louis

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — No longer searching for the first win 2014, the Raiders will look to pick up their second win of the season as they hit the road to St. Louis to take on the Rams Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. Kickoff is set for noon CST (10:00 a.m. PST) and can be seen locally on CBS/KPIX 5.

Oakland (1-10) took down their AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs 24-20 last Thursday in front of a nationally televised audience to kickoff Week 12. With the win, Oakland snapped a 16-game losing streak dating back to last season.

Offensively, quarterback Derek Carr put the Raiders on his back. The rookie signal caller engineered a 17-play, 80-yard, game-winning drive that ended with Carr tossing a nine-yard touchdown to wide receiver James Jones. The drive chewed up 7:21 of the fourth quarter.

Carr finished the game 18-of-35 for 172 yards.

“Amazing. Hopefully there’s many more to come,” Carr said after Oakland’s victory, “because I like this feeling better than the other one, that’s for sure. I’m glad that this finally came. I’ll be able to enjoy it.”

The Silver & Black’s poor rushing attack got a huge boost from Latavius Murray. Murray rushed for 112 yards with two first quarter touchdowns, one from 9o-yards out that gave Oakland a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. The second-year running back was knocked out of the game with a concussion on his fourth carry, so who knows what numbers Murray would’ve finished with if he could’ve stayed in the game.

Defensively, Oakland was led by their 38-year-old leader free safety Charles Woodson.

Woodson, finished second on the team with seven tackles (one assisted) and  a sack, becoming the first person in NFL history with 50 interceptions and 20 sacks. The 17-year veteran from Michigan was also named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

St. Louis (4-7), are coming off a heartbreaking 27-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers last week on the road where the Rams squandered a 17-6 third quarter lead.

Rams quarterback Shaun Hill completed 18-of-36 passes for 198 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Rookie running back finished with 62 yards on 16 carries, after beating up the Denver Broncos for 113 yards yards on 29 carries for a Rams 22-7 victory in Week 11 at home.

Offensively, St. Louis doesn’t score many points, only averaging 19 points per game. But where the Rams lack in offense, their defense can get after the quarterback and make tackles.

Defensive end Robert Quinn leads the team with six sacks, but rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald is second with five sacks.

Quinn has a knack for getting to quarterbacks, after registering two of the eight Rams’ sacks on San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick in St. Louis’ 13-10 victory in Week 9.

Oakland should not sleep on Rams linebackers James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree.

These two linebackers are always around the ball and are sure tacklers, with Ogletree leading the club with 75 tackles (68 assisted), while Laurinaitis is second with 70 (59 assisted).

Players to Watch

Oakland, RB, Latavius Murray. If Murray is able to be cleared to play Sunday, he has to be in the starting lineup. Murray clearly has added life to a morbid running game that was getting absolutely nothing from Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden. Again if Murray didn’t take a nasty hit from Chiefs free safety Kurt Coleman in the second quarter, Murray might still be running through Kansas City.

St. Louis, TE, Jared Cook. Cook leads the Rams with 37 catches and 473 yards, but just one touchdown. The Rams like using two tight end sets, so keep an eye on backup tight end, Lance Kendricks. Kendricks may just have 22 catches on the season, but he leads the Rams with four touchdown catches.



Crabtree quickly makes Kaepernick’s life easier

By Gabe Schapiro

On Sunday wide receiver Michael Crabtree made his long-awaited 2013-14 debut. Back on May 21 he tore his Achilles, dealing a big blow to an already thin receiving corps. Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco pass offense felt the adverse effects, and have struggled for much of the season. This has raised questions about whether Kaepernick could live up to the hyped expectations built up through last seasons Super Bowl run. On the stat sheet Crabtree didn’t have a huge first game back, but his impact could go far beyond that.

In the 23-13 win over the St. Louis Rams, Crabtree finished the day with two receptions for 68 yards on four targets. However, he is such a threat that his presence alone can open up the field for his teammates. Anquan Boldin had nine catches for 98 yards, and Vernon Davis had four receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps most importantly, Kaepernick had one of his best games of the season, completing 19 of 28 passes for 275 yards, a touchdown, and no turnovers. The 275 yards through the air are the most he’s had since Week 1, and is just the fourth time he’s eclipsed the 200-yard mark.

To put things into perspective, only two players on the entire 49ers roster this season have caught a touchdown pass: Boldin and Davis. Crabtree’s 68 receiving yards already puts him third among San Francisco’s active wideouts. With 16 more yards he will move into second. For an offense who essentially has three options on each play; hand it to Frank Gore, pass it to Boldin, or pass it to Davis, the addition of Crabtree back into the mix could pay big dividends.

With all of that said the Rams aren’t exactly a stiff test. They generally play the 49ers well, but their defense has been very middle-of-the-road this season. As a whole they are ranked 14th in the league in points allowed, and 19th in pass defense.

Crabtree’s game-changing ability so soon after returning will be tested significantly more next week against the league’s best pass defense, the Seattle Seahawks. However, his first game back was a good start. It already lets Kaepernick breathe just a little easier, as the 49ers push for a playoff spot.

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.

Stumbling 49ers look to recover against Rams

By Gabe Schapiro

For the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era the San Francisco 49ers (1-2) are below .500, and will be looking to right the ship in a short week this Thursday against the St. Louis Rams (1-2) at the Edward Jones Dome.

Last week the 49ers suffered their second consecutive loss, another first since Harbaugh came aboard. They weren’t just beaten, they were beaten decisively, 27-7 against the Indianapolis Colts. What was expected to be a slightly easier task coming off a shellacking at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks turned into another ugly showing. In the first quarter running back Kendall Hunter punched in a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven. That would be all that San Francisco could muster, however, as the Colts would pile on 20 more unanswered points.

The 49ers enter week four with many more questions than answers. Ever since an electric opening win, they have struggled mightily, getting out-scored 57-10.

Their offense seems to be suffering from a lack of weapons more than most expected, with top wideouts Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham sidelined, and an inexperienced group playing behind Anquan Boldin on the depth chart. Tight end Vernon Davis has been limited at times thanks to a hamstring injury. Old reliable, Frank Gore, finally seemed to have something going against the Colts before inexplicably being removed from the game plan, finishing the game with just 11 carries. Finally, Colin Kaepernick’s frustration seems to be growing as he attempts to navigate his lack of options. Despite the blazing start to his career, he also may just simply not be quite as polished as everyone had hoped yet, as defenses now have much more film of him to work with and prepare.

Also concerning are the 49ers problems on the defensive side of the ball, which was expected to be their calling card as it has been over the past couple of seasons. They aren’t getting as much pressure on opposing QBs, and aren’t forcing as many turnovers as they have been famous for. To make matters worse, the defensive unit has been hit with injury and controversy. Aldon Smith’s much publicized DUI has led to him being placed on the reserve/NFI list, and it is unknown how long it will be until he is able to return to the field. In last weeks contest star linebacker Patrick Willis injured his groin, and while he is reportedly hopeful that he will be able to play Thursday, it doesn’t sound as if it is likely.

In the Rams San Francisco will be facing a team that is coming off of a similarly rough loss, 31-7, at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. It is a young and improving team, however, that does have some talent. The team is led by fourth-year starter Sam Bradford, who despite last weeks loss is having a strong season. His primary weapons are Chris Givens, rookie Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, and Jared Cook. Through three games they have the 18th ranked offense, and the 26th ranked defense.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the 49ers need to tweak, but they need to make adjustments quickly. Unfortunately for them, being featured on Thursday night means they have a short week to do it. Another loss to an intra-division opponent would put them, at best, alone in third place. It’s a long season, and they do have time to turn things around, but for a team that entered the year with such high expectations, the trends are certainly concerning.