Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers
By: Mitch Light | 10/15/10, 6:00 AM EDT
Believe it or not, the 49ers are dealing with more dysfunction and turmoil than the Raiders as this rare regular-season game between these Bay Area rivals approaches. The 49ers have lost five straight games and are still searching for their first win. Quarterback Alex Smith was nearly benched during Monday night’s loss to Philadelphia and has been put on notice by coach Mike Singletary that his job is in jeopardy. Singletary is on the hot seat, too, although he received the dreaded vote of confidence from team president Jed York, who took time out of his busy schedule to ratchet up the pressure and predict the 49ers would still win the NFC West.
At 2–3 and coming off their first victory over San Diego since 1993, the Raiders appear headed in the right direction for a change. They’ll try to win back-to-back games for the first time since the final two games of 2008. They haven’t been .500 or better after six games since 2002, when they started 4–2 and went to the Super Bowl.
Keys for the 49ers
• If the 49ers can stop turning the ball over so often, they should have a chance to do some damage against a Raiders defense that has allowed a combined 947 yards and 58 points the past two weeks to Houston and San Diego. Smith passed for 309 yards against the Eagles, but he was intercepted twice and lost a fumble that Philadelphia returned for a touchdown. Running back Frank Gore is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry and lost two fumbles against the Eagles, but he might have a chance to get untracked against a run defense that ranks 31st in the NFL.
• Job No. 1 for the 49ers’ defense will be to stop a Raiders running attack that ranks No. 7 in the league and has produced big yardage from Darren McFadden, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, and Michael Bush, who was out the first two games with a broken left thumb. Job No. 2? That would be blanketing Raiders tight end Zach Miller. He had a career-high 11 catches two weeks ago against Houston and added six more against San Diego. He leads the team in catches (28), receiving yards (340) and touchdown catches (3).
Keys for the Raiders
• The Raiders defense needs to put a complete game together. Two weeks ago the Raiders held Houston quarterback Matt Schaub to 192 passing yards but gave up 249 yards on the ground. Last week they held San Diego to 91 rushing yards but gave up 415 net passing yards to Philip Rivers. The defense has dropped from second all the way to a tie for 23rd in just two weeks.
• Quarterback Jason Campbell came off the bench for an injured Bruce Gradkowski (sprained right shoulder) last week and led the Raiders to their first victory over San Diego after 13 straight losses. Campbell will likely start Sunday, but whichever quarterback plays needs to get his wide receivers involved in the offense. Darrius Heyward-Bey has gone back-to-back games with zero catches, and Louis Murphy has just three catches the past two games. Murphy, however, did catch a 58-yarder from Campbell last week.
The Raiders are coming off an emotional win over San Diego that could serve as a springboard to more victories, but this is a team that has had trouble handling success. The last six chances the Raiders had to win back-to-back games, they failed. The 49ers are off to their worst start since 1979, but they are a desperate team, which makes them dangerous, especially at home, where they lost by just three points to the Saints and the Eagles. 49ers 24–21.