The Raiders and 49ers had completely opposite weekends. The Raiders pulled off one of their greatest upsets in recent years beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh, while the Niners failed to keep their dim playoff hopes alive, with a heartbreaking loss in Seattle.
A lot of Niner fans and those close to the organization wanted to see Alex Smith arrive on Sunday and carry the Niners to victory on his shoulders. The playbook and play-calling on Sunday were designed for Smith to be comfortable and to throw, and they completely abandoned the run game and Frank Gore right from the beginning. The think abandoning the run game eventually was what cost the team this game. The lack of a run game and a few un-timely drops by the receivers and Vernon Davis, caused the 49ers to come up just 3 points short of keeping their season alive, but it wasn't because of Alex Smith. The 25 year-old QB had another fine performance, throwing for a career high 310 yards, and again did not throw an interception. Alex Smith played very well and did about all he could do to help the Niners pull that game off, but they didn't play a sound game whatsoever. They botched a trick kick-return play and gave the Seahawks the ball inside their own 20 early on which led to the Seahawks first touchdown. Then late in the game, Frank Gore fumbled during an impressive 49er drive, inside the Seahawks 25 yard-line leading to a 42 yard fumble recovery and an eventual Olindo Mare field goal. Those two mistakes along with numerous dropped passes (including one potential game deciding TD late in 4th quarter by Vernon Davis) caught up with the Niners in the end... More on this game throughout the week.
The Raiders had a much better go of it in there game vs. the Steelers. Like Alex Smith, new Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski threw for over 300 yards with 3 scores to lead the Raiders pas the 2008 Super Bowl Champs. All three of his TD passes came in the 4th quarter, with the final one coming with 9 seconds on the clock, a game-winning 11 yard-strike to Louis Murphy. Speaking of Murphy, he also had a coming our party of his own, catching 4 balls for a career high 128 yards and 2 scores. In what's been considered an awful year for Raiders receivers, Murphy has been the silver lining, as he's the only Raiders receiver with more over 200 yards receiving (411) and more than 1 TD (4). While the Raiders passing game came alive, and the defense played solidly, their NFL-low rushing attack was once again shut down. The Raiders did manage to crack 100 yards rushing for the day, but averaged just 3.8 YPC, with their starter, Darren McFadden gaining just 25 yards on 9 carries. As disappointing as JaMarcus Russell has been in his 2.5 years in Oakland, people tend to overlook McFadden's struggles, but he's been a colossal disappointment since being drafted fourth overall in 2008. With the Raiders set for another top-5 draft pick in 2010, they could be in line to take another QB or RB which would be a major set-back for the organization.
Basketball/Baseball Talk: We've been really focused on football over the last few weeks here at the Sports Journal, and we'll definitely get into more Warriors talk as well as some NCAA hoops discussion in future posts, so do stay tuned cause basketball talk is coming. Until then, do check out our Warriors Blog for all things going on with the Warriors, or any NBA picks. For Giants Winter Meetings updates, check out our The Giants Baseball Blog.