Raiders, 49ers play for Bay Area Bragging Rights

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Sunday’s “Battle of the Bay” match up between the 1-11 Oakland Raiders and 7-5 San Francisco 49ers will feature two teams who are very thirsty to get back into the win column as the season hits the fourth quarter.

The Raiders fell hard last week in St. Louis 52-0, their worst loss since 1961 where the Raiders fell to the Houston 55-0. That season, Oakland finished 2-12.

Quarterback Derek Carr had arguably his roughest day as a pro. The rookie signal finished 24-of-39 for 173 yards passing, with two interceptions, while being sacked by an aggressive Rams defense three times before being replaced by Matt Schaub in the fourth quarter.

Schaub didn’t fare to well either, finishing 5-of-9 for 57 yards passing, including an interception that was returned for a 43-yard touchdown by cornerback, Trumaine Johnson. Schaub was also sacked three times.

“It had nothing to do with what Derek did or didn’t do,” head coach Tony Sparano said after the game. “It was just the scenario. I had to be honest with myself at that point and take him out of the game and not risk him potentially getting hurt. I made the decision, and it was the right decision.”

“I was pretty hot,” Carr said after the game. “I was upset, but (Sparano) explained why. It’s hard, because I’m so competitive. I want to play. He explained we have to be smart, too, and understand we still have four games left. We can’t risk anything with the situation the way it was.”

Defensively, Oakland couldn’t stop a Rams rushing attack that ripped the Silver & Black for 172 yards on the ground, 117 of those rushing yards came from rookie running back, Tre Mason.

Mason’s 89-yard touchdown in the second quarter after a Rams’ false start penalty pretty much doomed Oakland’s day.

“I really don’t have any words to describe what this feels like,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “If I sound dumbfounded, that’s because I am.”

After being considered a Super Bowl favorite the last three seasons during the Jim Harbaugh era, San Francisco is uncharted territory where they may not make the playoffs and a huge overall could be forthcoming at 4949 Centennial Boulevard in the offseason.

San Francisco is coming off an embarrassing 19-3 home loss on Thanksgiving Night to their bitter NFC West rival, the Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks in front of a national televised audience.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t play well, completing 16-of-29 passes for a season-low 121 yards including two interceptions to 49ers’ nemesis, cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman’s first interception came on San Francisco’s first possession and his second, came on the 49ers’ last possession.

“We didn’t play well,” Kaepernick said after the loss, “They were bad throws. Our receivers won. I didn’t make the throw on those. Those were my fault…We didn’t execute.”

With the pressure of winning ever increasing for Kaepernick and the 49ers, they better not take the Raiders lightly, even if the 49ers are considered the heavy favorites. Kansas City came to Oakland three weeks ago as heavy favorites and left Coliseum on the short end.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the series is tied 6-6 in the regular season, but have met 39 times in the preseason with San Francisco holding a 20-19 record in those games.

Players to Watch

San Francisco, RB, Frank Gore. Gore is arguably the heartbeat of the 49ers. At 31 when the lifespan of an NFL running back is in decline, Gore is defying the odds rushing for a team-high 712 yards on 181 carries (on pace for his eighth 1,000 yard season; fourth straight), but is only averaging a career-worse 3.9 yards per carry with two touchdowns. With Gore only mustering 29 yards on the ground in the loss to Seattle, Gore should get a lot of carries against one of the worst run defenses in football.

Oakland, RB, Latavius Murray. Murray didn’t play in Oakland’s loss in St. Louis as Murray was recovering from a concussion he suffered in Oakland’s 24-20 victory over Kansas City in Week 12 at Coliseum. Murray provides the Silver & Black with a faster ground game than what veterans Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden have provided Oakland this season.


Palmer, Cardinals visits Oakland for Sunday encounter

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND, Calif — As one of the two winless teams remaining in the NFL (Jacksonville is 0-6), the 0-5 Oakland Raiders will try to breakthrough into the win column again as they take on the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals at Coliseum Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PDT.

The Silver and Black are coming off a hard-fought 31-28 loss to their AFC West rivals, the San Diego Chargers, at Coliseum in Week 6 where the team played tough for all four quarters, but couldn’t give interim head coach Tony Sparano his first win after taking over for the fired Dennis Allen.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had his best game as a rookie, completing 16-of-25 passes for 282 yards, and four touchdowns, but it was his lone interception to Chargers rookie cornerback Jason  Verrett with 1:13 left to play that sealed Oakland’s 10th straight loss dating back to last season.

“He made a great play,” Carr said. “Brice [Butler] went up, he had it and the guy made a great play. Those things are going to happen. Yeah, it hurts. It hurts because that’s the way it ended.”

Defensively, Oakland got good games from linebacker Sio Moore, who led the team with seven tackles (three assisted), and strong safety Usama Young, who finished with six tackles.

“The goal is to win the game,”  linebacker Sio Moore said. “We didn’t do that. We didn’t execute in the last bit of plays when we needed to, how we needed to.

“It’s a very sick feeling because we let a team off the hook that’s not supposed to be let off the hook. They’re not what they’re acclaimed to be, whatever the situation is. I’m pretty pissed about it.”

Arizona (4-1), has gotten off to a hot start this season, sitting in first place in the ultra-competitive NFC West.

Former Raiders’ starting  quarterback Carson Palmer returns to the Black Hole to lead a Cardinals team that are coming off a 30-20 home victory against Washington in Week 6.

Palmer returned under center for Arizona last week after missing the previous five weeks with nerve issues in his throwing arm, and threw two touchdowns — one to Michael Floyd, the other to Larry Fitzgerald — to lead Arizona to victory.

“I’m not going to say I wasn’t nervous or wasn’t a little on edge,” Palmer said post game per the Associated Press, “just going into a game and really only have a quarter or maybe a half of a practice over the last five weeks.”

The Cardinals come in with some weapons that will pose some serious problems for the Raiders.

In addition to the emerging Floyd, and the Canton-bound Fitzgerald, Arizona has speedster in rookie wide receiver, John Brown. Brown leads the team with three touchdown catches.

Running back Andre Ellington has been a huge bright spot for the Cardinals this season. Ellington is a shifty runner who has a knack of ripping off big runs and with a Raiders team that is suspect against the run, Ellington is the wrong running back you want to face.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers leads a Cardinal defense that ranks 32nd against the pass, giving up 309 yards per game this season.

Powers is tied for the league lead in interceptions with three.

Players to Watch:

Oakland: WR, Andre Holmes. Carr appeared to have found a connection with Holmes. Carr found Holmes for a 77-yard touchdown on the Raiders’ third play of the game against San Diego. Holmes finished the game with four catches, for a game-high 121 yards, and could be emerging as the Raiders’ No. 1 wide receiver.

Arizona: WR, Larry Fitzgerald . Did it really take  five games for the Cardinals’ franchise leader in receptions (846), receiving yards (11,367), and touchdowns (87), to have a his best game of the year? The answer, yes. Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win against Washington, after not finding the endzone.

Coming into the game, Fitzgerald was averaging just three catches and 41 yards per game and no touchdowns.

Carr’s 4 TDs not enough as Chargers slip by Raiders

Raiders show grit, and progress, but can’t get into the win column.

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND, Calif — Chargers running back Branden Oliver’s 1-yard plunge with 1:56 remaining soured interim Raiders head coach’s Tony Sparano’s debut, as San Diego pulled away from Oakland, 31-28 Sunday in front of a Raider Nation crowd of 53,329 at Coliseum.

“We have to be in these kinds of football games,” interim Raiders head coach Tony Sparano said. “We have to win one of these types of football games and that’s how you get this thing turned around.”

Oakland (0-5), got on the board in a hurry in the first quarter, when wide receiver Andre Holmes beat Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers for a 77-yard touchdown pass from Carr on the team’s third play from scrimmage. It was Oakland’s longest scoring pass since 2008, when former quarterback JaMarcus Russell connected with tight end Zach Miller for an 86-yard touchdown.

Carr completed 18-of-34 passes for 282 yards, and a career-high four touchdowns, but threw a deep pass to wide receiver Brice Butler that was intercepted by rookie cornerback Jason Verrett with 1:13 remaining in the fourth quarter to preserve San Diego’s fifth straight win.

“He made a great play,” Carr said. “Brice went up, he had it and the guy made a great play. Those things are going to happen. Yeah, it hurts. It hurts because that’s the way it ended.”

San Diego quickly answered with a touchdown of their own, when quarterback Philip Rivers took San Diego 80 yards on seven plays in 4:30 that ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to wide receiver Eddie Royal that knotted up the game at 7-7 in the first quarter.

After both teams traded a pair of stalled drives to end the first quarter, San Diego took a 14-7 lead when Rivers engineered a 13-play, 85-yard drive in 7:20 to toss his second touchdown of the game, a five-yard completion to wide receiver Malcolm Floyd midway through the second quarter.

Oakland tied the game up at 14-14, after Carr found wide receiver James Jones from six yards out. It was Carr’s second touchdown pass of the game at that point. The Raiders had a chance to take a three-point lead at halftime, but kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 54-yard field goal as time expired.

On Oakland’s first possession of the third quarter, Carr threw his third touchdown of the game when he found Butler for 47 yards that gave the Raiders a 21-14 lead.

Not to be outdone, Rivers threw his third touchdown of the game (an 8-play, 80-yard drive; San Diego’s third 80-yard drive of the game), that resulted into a 1-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates that tied the game at 21-21 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

Rivers completed 22-of-34 passes for 313 yards, and three touchdowns, his third straight game with three touchdown passes. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Rivers became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards against Oakland, joining John Elway, Dan Fouts, John Hadl, and Dave Kreig.

Carr and the Raiders took a 28-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter, behind Carr’s fourth touchdown of the game to Holmes for six yards. It was Holmes’ second touchdown of the game, finishing with four catches, for 121 yards to lead all receivers.

Nick Novak booted a 30-yard field goal to pull San Diego closer, 28-24, before the aforementioned Oliver’s go-ahead touchdown that increased the Chargers’ lead for good.

With running back Ryan Matthews and Donald Brown both out with injuries, Oliver looks to be the Chargers new featured running back after picking up his second-straight 100-yard rushing game with 101 yards on 26 carries. The rookie from the University of Buffalo rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in San Diego’s 31-0 thumping of the New York Jets in Week 5.

Floyd finished with five catches for 105 yards receiving and a touchdown to lead the Chargers.

Running back Darren McFadden ran the ball hard, rushing for 80 yards on 14 carries (his highest output of the season), while fellow running back Maurice Jones-Drew chipped in 30 yards on four carries to the lead the ground game for the Silver and Black.

San Diego (5-1) sits alone atop of the AFC West and are tied with the Dallas Cowboys (5-1 after their 30-23 road victory over the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks Sunday), for the best record in the NFL.

Defensively, Oakland played gritty, but couldn’t hold a fourth quarter lead that results in the team’s 10th straight loss dating back to last season.  San Diego’s offense kept Oakland’s defense on the field, controlling the football for 37 minutes.

“The goal is to win the game,”  linebacker Sio Moore said. “We didn’t do that. We didn’t execute in the last bit of plays when we needed to, how we needed to.

“It’s a very sick feeling because we let a team off the hook that’s not supposed to be let off the hook. They’re not what they’re acclaimed to be, whatever the situation is. I’m pretty pissed about it.”

Moore finished with a team-leading seven tackles (3 assisted), strong safety Usama Young had six tackles, and defensive end C.J. Wilson recorded the Raiders lone sack.

“This group played with a lot of energy…we are going to continue to work our tails off and get better,” Sparano added.

The Raiders host NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals (4-1), who are coming off a 30-20 home victory over hapless Washington Sunday, in Week 7.





Raiders begin Sparano era with San Diego coming to Oakland

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

ALAMEDA — Coming off a much needed bye where Oakland fired head coach Dennis Allen and named offensive line coach Tony Sparano interim head coach,  the Oakland Raiders look to get into the win column as they will host the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Coliseum. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PDT.

Oakland, (0-4), has been dreadful offensively through the first quarter of the season, ranking last in points scored per game (12.8), total yards per game (270), and rushing yards per game (61.5). Opponents have outscored the Raiders 103-51.

Quarterback Derek Carr, who suffered a sprained ankle and MCL during Oakland’s brutal loss to Miami 38-14 in London, should be a go on Sunday after the week off.

Carr is slowly developing into a quarterback in the NFL, completing 84-of-133 passes for 734 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions in his four starts this season. The Raiders signal caller maybe in for a tough day as he is set to face a stingy Chargers defense that ranks third in the NFL in total defense.

Running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden have been virtually non-existent this season. MJD and McFadden need to find a way to take some of the pressure off Carr and run the ball better than their 1.1 and 3.3 yards per carry average (respectively) have shown.

Defensively, the Raiders will be in trouble Sunday.

Oakland has just four sacks this season, one from the defensive line. Strong safety Tyvon Branch, who leads the team with 30 tackles, is done for the season after three games with a fractured foot.

The team just placed linebacker Nick Roach on season-ending injured reserve due to lingering concussion symptoms.Roach suffered a concussion against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 22 during the exhibition season.

It would be nice to see Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver get more pressure out of defensive end Justin Tuck, defensive tackle Antonio Smith, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley. These were the guys (along with cornerbacks Terrell Brown and Carlos Rogers), that were suppose to add some much needed punch to a pedestrian defense.

San Diego has been red hot, winners of four straight and sit atop the AFC West at 4-1; a big reason for the Chargers great start has been because of the play quarterback Philip Rivers.

Rivers is off to one of his best starts in his 11 years in the NFL, ranking near the top of the list among the game’s best quarterbacks in passing yards (1,443), touchdown-to-interception ratio (12/2), and passer rating (116.3).

Players to Watch:

Oakland – QB Derek Carr. It will be interesting to see how Carr will perform Sunday coming off the injury he sustained before the bye week. Carr will be working in another wide receiver to the mix, after the Raiders claimed former New England Patriots WR, Kenbrell Thompkins Monday.

San Diego – QB Philip Rivers. No question that Rivers has reestablish himself as a premier quarterback. Rivers is coming off back-to-back three touchdown passing performances and will be looking for his favorite target, TE Antonio Gates down the middle of the field where Oakland has been vulnerable all season.