The Oakland Raiders could have broken their second exhibition game wide open early in the first half, but a missed opportunity early along with others to come, and a porous run defense, spelled their doom to the hated cross-bay rival San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park Saturday evening. The final score was a 49ers victory 21-20, but the game could have been a blowout for either side had either of the teams capitalized on chances they had throughout the game.In the first quarter, Oakland’s defensive tackle William Joseph hit the throwing arm of San Francisco’s starting quarterback, Alex Smith, causing the ball to hang in the air where a waiting Ricky Brown intercepted it at the Raiders’ 47-yard line and returned it to the 49ers’ seven. Smith made a touchdown saving tackle of Brown who’s interception set up the Raiders third possession of the game in scoring position with the score tied at zero.
[Stanford] Routt had good coverage on the play. The ball got tipped. About the only thing that bothered me was that I got caught from behind by the quarterback. Once I get my legs under me, I’ll be alright.
– Ricky Brown on his interception
After a short pass to Zach Miller and a one-yard run by Justin Fargas, JaMarcus Russell was faced with a third and goal from the 49ers’ three-yard line. With two rookie wide receivers, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy, Russell chose to target Murphy on the play–the rookie let the ball slip through his hands for the incompletion. With an obvious field goal opportunity, head coach Tom Cable chose to go for it on fourth down. Russell again targeted Murphy, but the wide open receiver was overthrown by the Raiders’ starting quarterback, turning over the ball at the San Francisco three.
The Raiders’ next possession would have a different result. After starting from their own 40-yard line, Russell would guide his team in for a seven play, 60-yard scoring drive that would last 3:44. He had a little help from 49ers’ corner Nate Clements. Clements, who was quoted earlier in the week with some less than complimentary things to say about the Raiders, was beaten badly by Johnnie Lee Higgins. Higgins pulled a double move on the veteran corner and Clements was left standing still while Higgins began to pass him by. Clements saved a possible touchdown by holding the receiver’s arms and preventing a wide open reception targeted for the end zone.
The help didn’t go unreturned by the Raiders’ offensive line. After the penalty, the Raiders had a first and 10 from the 49ers’ 13-yard line. On second and eight, Cornell Green was called for being an ineligible man downfield, setting up a second and 13 attempt. On the very next play, Samson Satele was called for holding after a two-yard pass to Justin Fargas. The two penalties put the ball back at the 49ers’ 26-yard line with 23 yards to go for the first down. On third and 21, Russell passed to a wide-open Murphy in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown, leading to an Oakland lead of 7-0.
Clements was more complimentary about the touchdown score by the rookie. “They had a good play,” he said. “The defense we called–I’ve got to get back on that one, but they made a good play.” Murphy agreed. “I think it was just a good call against the coverage they were playing,” he said. “It just happened that he bit on the coverage, and I ended up in the back of the end zone.”
The 49ers struck back quickly on their next possession. After starting from their own 20, San Francisco marched down on a 13 play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a Joe Nedney field goal. The drive was fueled by the running of Glenn Coffee, who had a run of 35 yards and eight carries for 64 yards on the drive. The drive would’ve been a back-breaker had it been a regular-season game. Besides going for 13 plays, the drive also lasted 6:46, with the field goal leaving the game at the two-minute warning. Coffee would finish the game with 16 carries for 129 yards, for an 8.1 average per-carry.
The Raiders would eventually go up 14-3, but a series of miscues and a lack of run defense would find them down 21-14 with 8:49 to play in the game. The 49ers racked up 275 yards on the ground with Coffee leading the way, followed by Michael Robinson’s 97 yards, and Kory Sheets’ 51. For the game, San Francisco averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry.
Raiders quarterbacks threw three interceptions, one each by Jeff Garcia, Bruce Gradkowski, and Charlie Frye. On the night, Raiders quarterbacks were 16 for 27, with three interceptions, for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
After the game, coach Tom Cable explained some of his frustration with his team. “We got into a ton of situations tonight which was good,” Cable began his post-game press conference. “I felt like we were really up and down in terms of rhythm. I did not think we tackled real well on defense.”
Russell echoed his teams’ sentiment after the game. When asked what he thought the Raiders needed to improve upon prior to their next game, he made sure to include the whole team. “Everything as a whole,” he stated. “It’s crazy to say, ‘Play a mistake-free game,’ but if we go out there and eliminate the penalties, and eliminate the third and long situations, I think we’ll be a lot better than what we showed today.”