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 O.co 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 O.co 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.