San Francisco 49ers vs. Oakland Raiders: What the Game Said About Each Team

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIAugust 24, 2011

San Francisco 49ers vs. Oakland Raiders: What the Game Said About Each Team

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    The Battle of the Bay preseason match-up between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders was marred by several incidents of violence, including three of a life-threatening nature.

    Thus, one thing learned was that there are irrational people that choose to let a game mean more than the sanctity of life. It is understandable that both sets of fans would have increased frustration, as their teams represent arguably the two worst franchises in the NFL over the last eight seasons.

    San Francisco has 49 wins over that span, and Oakland has 37. Only the Cleveland Browns (43) and Detroit Lions (34) have also failed to reach 50, but the Browns have a winning season in there that neither Bay Area team can boast.

    If anything, this should give fans of both teams empathy for one another. Instead, the rivalry has gotten so bad it endangers neighbours for a game that does not even matter.

    But an examination of the culture of violence behind it is more appropriate for a forum on society, not a sports blog. Here we can take a look at what the game itself told us about the teams involved...

San Francisco Runs Well and Oakland Can Be Run Against

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    If the San Francisco 49ers lose Frank Gore this offseason, they have a backfield full of youth to replace him.

    Kendall Hunter may have run against the second-team Oakland defense, but he had 105 yards on nine carries. Even if you take away his explosive 53-yard touchdown carry, he averaged 6.5 yards per run.

    As a rookie, he will only get better.

    By contrast, second-year back Anthony Dixon had most of his 12 carries against the Raiders first-team defense so Gore (four carries, 21 yards) could be saved for the regular season. Yet Dixon ran for 53 yards and over four per carry.

    Even third-year back Xavier Omon, unlikely to make the team, had 14 carries for 62 yards (4.4 average) and a touchdown. That gives San Francisco backs 241 yards on 39 carries for a 6.2-yard average and two scores.

    With the departure of Nnamdi Asomugha, the strength of the Raiders defense is supposed to be their front-seven. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour form arguably the best tackle combination in the NFL.

    While they were on the field, the Niners ran for over 60 yards and four yards per carry. Those are not gaudy numbers and they were held out of the end zone, but they did it mostly with a backup running back.

    More disturbing is that once they were off the field, the Niners third and fourth backs racked up two scores and almost 180 yards and seven yards per carry in a half of football. This indicates poor depth behind the starting front seven that puts the Raiders in trouble if anyone gets hurt.

Neither Team Can Finish Drives with Touchdowns

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    Teams that make it to the Super Bowl score touchdowns.

    San Francisco got into the red zone four times and got only one touchdown. That is too few trips to the red zone in a game in which you rushed for over 200 yards, and far too few times closing the deal.

    In fact, they had first and goal three times and only got into the end zone once. They even managed to botch one of the field goals on a fumbled hold of a good snap.

    Those things only happen to teams that do not know how to finish. But they looked good compared to Oakland.

    The Raiders only reached the red zone twice. They turned the ball over on downs in the first quarter after getting first and goal, and Kyle Boller threw an interception the only other time they made it there.

    Sure, they probably go for a field goal in a regular season game, but two trips and three points inside the red zone is horrific.

Neither Team Has a Quarterback

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    I chose a photograph of Aaron Rodgers in case fans in the Bay Area needed a reminder of what a real quarterback looks like. It has been seven years since either team had one.

    As a fan of the World Champion Green Bay Packers (yes, I like saying that), I observed a stark difference on a play-by-play basis at the quarterback position between the Packers and the two Bay Area teams.

    It is not just because the Packers made the right choice in 2005 while the Raiders and Niners are stuck with the other two of that draft's first three quarterback selections. The reality is all three Green Bay quarterbacks had a passer rating over 125 in their last preseason game.

    By contrast, Jason Campbell was the only quarterback to have a passer rating above 91.7, and he only threw seven passes with five completions and 74 yards. If you watched the game, he did not look as good as his stats.

    Colin Kaepernick was 6-8 for 56 yards, a solid but unspectacular performance. Alex Smith looked good on all but one pass, but that one is the kind that has had Niners fans pulling out their hair for six years, and it had nothing to do with the commonly-used excuse (including by me) of him having to learn a new offense every year.

    Packers QBs went a combined 21-27 (.778) for 319 yards (15.2 per completion, 11.8 per attempt) and three scores without a pick. The Raiders and 49ers quarterbacks (i.e. excluding Andy Lee's interception following his dropped hold on a field goal attempt) combined to go 28-45 (.622) for 344 yards and three interceptions without a score.

    You cannot win in this league without good quarterback play because that is how you close drives with touchdowns. ...This is going to be a tough season for both Bay Area teams.

Both Pass Rushes May Struggle To Get Sacks

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    The San Francisco 49ers reached a long way to get Aldon Smith in the first round. No publication I saw had him ranked as a top-half of the first-round, much less top-quarter; many projected him to be an early second-round pick.

    But they did it for a reason: Teams that get sacks win football games. An offense scores less than 10 percent of the time if it is sacked on a possession.

    Statistically, the Niners were about the middle of the pack in sacks last season. Only 13 teams had more sacks, and the average number per team was only five sacks per three games higher than San Francisco.

    But even with Smith in the fold, the Niners managed just two sacks in 26 pass plays against the poor pass protection of Oakland. The Raiders are a team that lost a starting guard from last year's squad that gave up a higher sack percentage (sacks per passing play) than all but three teams in the NFL.

    By contrast, the Raiders finished last season one sack off the lead in the league with 47. Because teams were forced to throw more against Pittsburgh, Green Bay and even San Diego (the others with at least 47 sacks), one could argue Oakland's pass rush was the best in the league.

    Saturday, it looked like it may struggle more without Nnamdi Asomugha to shut down half the field. They also had two sacks in just 23 quarterback drop-backs by the Niners, who are even worse at pass blocking.

    San Francisco allowed a sack on about one-fifth of their pass plays in the preseason opener, and only five teams allowed more sacks or a higher sack percentage than San Francisco in 2010.

    One game does not say push the panic button, but neither team's pass-rush performance should give fans confidence right now.

The Lockout Hurt Both Teams

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    Each of these teams, despite terrible ownership and management, are in contention in their divisions. With a little luck, they could have been playing in mid-January.

    But both of these teams have instability. Teams going through changes were hurt more by the lockout than others.

    Each team has a new head coach and two new coordinators. Both had significant changes in personnel. Both need major changes in mentality to be instilled to take them to the next level.

    All of those things require time to gel and change direction. Coaches and players need to get to know one another to maximize productivity.

    Instead of having that time during the offseason, players had to run their own practices and coaches could only look at film of their personnel, often in different systems or at least packages than they will be in this season.

    This is going to put both teams behind their competition.

    The Raiders are the Bay Area team with the fewest changes. They start out playing a Denver Broncos team going through more changes with worse personnel, followed by a relatively weak Buffalo Bills team.

    But the next two weeks they face established Super Bowl contenders in the New York Jets and New England Patriots. If they lose the following week in Houston, they are looking at going into their bye 3-4 after a home game against Cleveland and a road contest at Kansas City. Oakland is not a team known for strong finishes.

    The Niners are further behind than most teams with changes because quarterback Alex Smith was unable to practice right away as a free agent under the new collective bargaining agreement. They have a relatively easy first three weeks of their schedule (Seattle, Dallas, Cincinnati), but if they are behind those teams they could still be 1-5 at the bye because their next four games are at Philadelphia, vs. Tampa Bay and at Detroit.