The 2010 version of the "Battle of the Bay" takes place this Sunday in Candlestick park as the Oakland Raiders take on the San Francisco 49ers.
The Raiders are coming off a big win against the division rival San Diego Chargers. The 49ers, on the other hand, are in "desperation mode" as they head into Sunday at 0-5.
Both teams need a win this week.
The fans of both teams dislike one another for the most part, and the interaction between them usually resembles an ugly custody battle, rather than friendly, competitive discourse.
There are a lot of bragging rights on the line this Sunday for fans, and players alike.
As the hype in the Bay Area reaches epic proportions, the fact is—there's a game to play.
Let's have a look at what it will take for the Raiders to win two games in a row for the first time since the last two games of the 2008 season.
Here we go...
The Raiders must protect the quarterback better, regardless of who it is.
This is a "No-Brainer."
The Raiders have given up 16 sacks thus far in 2010. This cannot continue if the Raiders expect to win consistently.
Daniel Loper has been substituting admirably for the injured Robert Gallery. This week, Gallery took part in limited practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
If Gallery is back, I would suggest the coaching staff replace the worst starting offensive lineman in the league, Cooper Carlisle, with Loper at right guard.
This is not a long term solution, but a stop-gap measure. The fact is, Loper can't do any worse than Carlisle. No one could.
In addition, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson should keep a running back or a second tight end in the back field to help Mario Henderson on the left side against the speed rush of Travis LaBoy and Parys Haralson.
Whatever it takes, keep Campbell or Gradkowski, (whomever gets the start) upright.
All of the Raiders running backs must contribute on Sunday.
The strength of the Raiders offense lies in the back field. Michael Bush, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, Rock Cartwright, and Michael Bennett make the Raiders very versatile.
That versatility must be utilized to keep the excellent 49ers linebacking corps off balance. If Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson, or Parys Haralson know what's coming, they will make big plays.
I suggest the Raiders rotate the running backs frequently and change up the types of runs they use. Power leads, isolations, draws, sprints, sweeps, pitches, and counters should all be used as randomly as possible.
That is not to say if something works really well the Raiders shouldn't stick to it, just that the running game needs to be varied and unpredictable.
Hopefully, the Raiders will have both McFadden and Bush available. If so, it will give the Raiders a huge advantage. Both of these runners can eat a team alive if given the right circumstances.
Zach Miller has been on a tear lately.
Zach Miller has a been a nightmare for defenses to account for lately.
It doesn't seem to matter whether it's Bruce Gradkowski or Jason Campbell throwing the ball—they're both finding a security blanket in Miller.
With a huge game in the loss to Houston, and a productive one in the win last week against the Chargers, Miller has built the critical trust and chemistry with both of the Raiders' quarterbacks.
All I have to say is—just keep doing what you've done.
This is not pre-season. The Raiders cannot expect the same break down in coverage that led to a 74 yard touchdown by Louis Murphy when these teams met in the pre-season.
However, the 49ers' secondary can be taken advantage of by the deep ball.
After establishing the run, the Raiders should be able to go deep off play action. Taylor Mays and Dashon Goldson are decent players, but they're young. They have made, and will continue to make mistakes.
With the lack of pass protection provided by the Raiders' offensive line, play action may be the only way to get the ball deep.
Successful play action and double moves by the wide receivers could be the difference in the game on Sunday.
Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford could be huge for the Raiders.
As I stated in previous slides, the Raiders do not pass protect very well. Because of this, a quick screen game might be very effective.
"Instant" plays do two things:
1. They get the ball into the hands of your play makers quickly. Anything can happen after that.
2. They slow down the pass rush. The Raiders need all the help they can get in this area.
Miller and Ford can be very explosive when given the chance. The quick screen can give them that opportunity.
The Raiders cannot have a repeat of Gore's preseason game if they want to win.
Frank Gore is arguably the best running back on the west coast, but he's more than that.
Gore is the 49ers' leading rusher, and their leading receiver. Stopping the 49ers begins with stopping Gore.
The best attribute he brings is his power. Arm tackles will not work against most backs in the NFL, Gore is no exception. If you don't wrap him up, he will kill you.
Arm tackles, missed tackles, and poor fundamentals have plagued the Raiders in recent years. This has got to end for the Raiders to stand a chance against Gore and the 49ers.
Gap discipline and aggressive run blitzes will go a long way to controlling Gore and stopping the 49ers offense.
Execpt for JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith is the biggest QB bust since Ryan Leaf!
Alex Smith has proven repeatedly that he panics easily and makes mistakes. The Raiders need to take advantage of this.
I suggest defensive coordinator John Marshall call a game that resembles the final drive against the Chargers, rather than the soft coverage that let Philip Rivers rack up 405 passing yards.
Blitzes on first down will keep the 49ers in second and third and long. Once in those long yardage situations—blitz Smith again, and again, and again.
Get him on his back, get in his head, and make him think more about the defense than the open receivers.
Vernon Davis is one of the best tight ends in football.
Vernon Davis is in the conversation of best tight ends in the NFL. He's a physical freak—as big as a defensive end, and as fast as a wide receiver.
A match up nightmare.
The only Raider linebacker that has a shot at covering Davis one on one is Thomas Howard—and he's injured.
This is where I'd suggest—GET MIKE MITCHELL IN THE GAME! He allowed only one catch by Antonio Gates in five attempts. If he can cover Gates, he can cover Davis.
The entire defense must pay attention to where Davis lines up and know who has him in coverage on every single down.
Mixing up double coverage, zone coverage, and bump and run is the only chance the Raiders have at stopping this extremely dangerous weapon.
Don't let him know what the coverage is, and don't let him get comfortable.
When he does make the catch, the Raiders must not go for the big hit, but wrap up and get him on the ground before he gets loose with massive yards after catch.
Michael Crabtree can hurt a team if he gets going.
Michael Crabtree is good young receiver, but he's not as good as Nnamdi Asomugha.
That said, if Asomugha is on Crabtree all day long, that leaves Josh Morgan as the next best wide receiver the 49ers have.
Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson cannot play like they did against Malcom Floyd and the Chargers. If they do, it will be a long day for Raider fans.
Shane Lechler is simply the best punter the league has seen in 20 years.
Last week, Sebastian Janikowski was two for two in field goals, and three for three on extra points. Hopefully his problems are in the past for good.
Shane Lechler was his usual Pro-Bowl self. Lechler being solid is a "gimmie," and Raider fans will take it.
Nick Miller has been named the first team punt returner. If he can have a couple returns like his 46 yarder against the Chargers, the Raiders will win the field position battle.
The kick and punt return coverage was much better last week than it has been in a long time. They allowed just 33 total return yards. Hopefully for the Raiders, this will continue.
The special teams can win a game by flipping field position, scoring points, or causing turnovers. They can also lose a game with one mistake.
Stevie Brown, Mike Mitchell, and Ricky Brown have to build on a solid day against the Chargers.
Don't be fooled, the 49ers are better than their win-less record would indicate. The Raiders will have to play solid in every facet of the game to come out with a win.
Pressuring Alex Smith, stopping Frank Gore and controlling Vernon Davis will be the keys on defense.
Mixing up different types of runs, getting Zach Miller involved, and pushing the ball down field will be the keys on offense.
What do you think? Am I right? Wrong? What would you do differently? Let me hear you in the comments.
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