When it comes to sucking, the Raiders are still the champs. For three quarters Sunday, the 49ers gave it their best egg layers effort, but the Raiders hung in there and out laid them down the stretch, falling behind and then climaxing their gruntful expertise by tossing an interception in the game’s dying moments.
Thank you, Raiders. Can we play you again next week?
It was a strange game for the 49ers. Alex Smith did not throw an interception and nobody fumbled. It looked a whole lot like a 2009 game. The 49ers abandoned the “score on the first drive” game plan that had failed the previous two games, and went back to Jimmy Raye basics of lulling opponent’s to sleep with a dull and ponderous offense, letting the defense keep us in the game, and then putting together a game winning drive at the end.
And that drive was a beauty. 13 plays and 91 yards, eating up 8 minutes and 11 seconds — the most time consuming 49er TD drive since 2000. The drive almost self-destructed in the red zone, as has been usual this year, when Smith took the team from the Oakland 20 to the Oakland 30 with a weird intentional grounding penalty. While visions of another wasted effort and another melt down moment sprang immediately to every 49er fan’s mind, Smith then stunned the world by heaving a gorgeous 32 yard TD pass to Michael Crabtree.
When the Raiders responded by marching down for a field goal, making the game 10-9, despair was restored. The Raiders were now in position for a Sebastian Janikowski 65 yard field goal on the last play of the game, after some feeble sit-on-the-lead three and outs by the Niners. But the 2009 team once again popped up and Frank Gore rolled 64 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Amazing. The 49ers even scored two TDs to cap this “drive”, only one of which counted.
A victory is a win. Thank you, thank you. It was ugly and nothing that conjured up visions of championship football, but maybe the demons that have plagued this team all year have at last been exorcised. Baby steps. The team will not go 0-16.
Not until Takeo Spikes intercepted Jason Campbell on the Raiders final drive did this scribbler rest easy. The entire 4th quarter, I was wincing, waiting for someone on the 49ers to make the game changing fatal mistake. But they didn’t. And that’s all it took to win this game.
I’m normally fairly proficient at bloviating up a wonderful rosy future for the 49ers, but this game did not light a fire under my bloviation kettle. Did the 49ers learn how to win Sunday? Maybe. Did they refuse to lose? Perhaps. Did they get angry at themselves and take it out on the Raiders? It seemed that way for the final quarter and a half. Did Smith rise to the occasion? You could almost say so.
But the offense still looks like crap. The play calling seems improved and more creative, but the O-line still can’t block. Smith still looks like a cautious game manager, rather than an elite QB. The defense was great, but it was facing a fairly inept offense and a marginal QB.
Next week the team plays Carolina, another inept offensive team, so maybe we can win that game, too. We should, that’s for sure. But will we? I’m not betting any money on it. The team had more spark Sunday, but not much more skill. But it’s a win. Halleluja, baby. Hip, hip, spatoozle.