Monday, October 25, 2010

Smith Injures Shoulder, 49ers Fall to 1-6

First off, I want to apologize for layoff in posting here over the last 2 weeks, we've been so concentrated on the Giants and their playoff run, and I've been down in San Francisco for the home playoff games and have been spending most of my computer time over on that site. But we're back now, and we should return to our normal, 2-3 post per week schedule now.

Of course, for all our Giants World Series coverage, check out our partner site, The Giants Baseball Blog. Even though they haven't been nearly as exciting to talk about as the Giants, the Niners looked to have taken a step in the right direction after their first victory of the season over the Raiders last week, but they lost all momentum gained from that win, and really can now kiss any shot at the playoffs goodbye after falling to the Carolina Panthers, 23-20. The Niners lost starting quarterback Alex Smith halfway through the game, and the offense really sputtered once he left the game. For all those Niner fans who have been wanting to see David Carr behind center, they got their chance on Sunday, and Carr did not impress at all. Carr went just 5-13 for 64 yards and a pick. He literally did all he could to help the Niners lose the game, looking like Alex Smith at his absolute worst, and failing to get any sort of momentum going on offense. The only points the Niners put up with Carr behind center, was on defense, as Ray McDonald picked off Matt Moore and took it to the house. That gave the Niners the 20-13 lead late into the 4th, but the Panthers managed to put up 2 scores in the final 2 minutes to walk away with the game. That 2-minute showing by the Niners was basically their season in a nutshell. Mistakes, mismanagement, and the allowance of big plays (David Gettis 23-yard TD catch with 1:48 remaining in game) with the game on the line.

On a more positive note, Frank Gore looked very good on the ground to collect his 2nd consecutive 100-yard game. He also helped out in the passing game with, with his typical 4 catch, 57 yard game. He's quietly gone over 300 YFS over the last 2 games, and is showing exactly why the Niners need to be giving him at least 25 touches per week... Vernon Davis also had a nice game, as he caught the only Niners' offensive touchdown of the game, a 1 yard strike from Smith in the 1st quarter. Davis finished with 4 catches for 74 yards and that 1 touchdown. But outside of Gore and Davis, the Niners had nothing going on offense. Michael Crabtree had 4 catches, but those only went for 31 yards. I didn't think I'd find myself saying this at all this season, but the Niners really struggled without Alex Smith, and if he stays healthy all game, the 49ers win this football game.

Monday, October 11, 2010

49ers Fall to 0-5

The 49ers fell to 0-5 with their loss Sunday night against the Eagles, marking the team's worst start in over 30 years (since 1979). It was a combination of stupid penalties and costly turnovers that ended up doing the Niners in, in another game that was well within their grasp.

Again, I tell you, this team could just as easily be 3-2 as they are 0-5. The only 2 games in which they really looked bad from start to finish was in KC and in Seattle to start the year. Even that game in Seattle, they really had control through the first part of it, until coming completely unraveled in the 2nd half. Sunday night's game vs. Philly was basically the Niners season in a nutshell to this point. Some excitement, they got up early with a Smith to Crabtree connection for 6 as the Niners ate up about 8 minutes in their opening drive. After that though, it was really all down hill. The 49ers turned the ball over 5 times, 3 by Alex Smith and 2 by Frank Gore, and they only caused one on defense. Just goes to show you how much talent this team has. They lose the TO battle by 4 against a solid team, and still only lose the game by 3 points. You take away one of those turnovers, most notably the Alex Smith fumble on that roll-out to the left in the 2nd half that was taken in for a score by Quintin Mikell. That put Philly up 24-10 in the 4th quarter and it was ultimately too much for the Niners to overcome. Even though Alex Smith came out after getting chewed out by Singletarry, and looked about as good as I've seen him look in San Francisco for that scoring drive when he found Vernon Davis, they just couldn't quite pull the comeback.

I don't really have much more to say about this game, and the Giants are getting ready to take on the Braves in a potential elimination game, so I'm going to focus on that for now. Any shot of a 49er playoff appearance is now out the window, even their players are starting to express frustration publicly. Both Takeo Spikes and Nate Clements both stated they thought the 49ers had no shot at making the playoffs now and the season was basically done, and although it sucks they're bringing that attitude, they're basically right. Even at 1-4 it would have been tough for them to comeback and make it to January. Now, I hate to say it, but the best thing for them in this case may be to keep losing. Obviously, they're still not completely out of it, but they'd have to go 10-1, or at least 9-2 in their remaining 11 games, and that's like mid-2000's Patriots' good, and the Niners' are nowhere near that. I still think they need to roll with Alex Smith for the rest of the year at QB, or at least for another 5 or 6 games, cause they need to know for sure that they need to move on, and although it's looking that way, the 49ers, again, are a few breaks away from being 3-2. Close doesn't cut it in the NFL though, and the simple fact is, Alex isn't winning. Give him till the rest of the year to prove he still can't, then they can officially cut ties, knowing they gave him plenty of chances, and some.

Raiders/Stanford Next Post: We'll get to the Raiders loss in our next post (or maybe we'll just skip it, who knows). With all the typing I'm doing between here and our other site, The Giants Baseball Blog, with the Giants in the playoffs and all, It's pretty demanding. Do check out the Giants site for our playoff coverage though if you want to hear about something else besides some losing football teams! I also plan to touch on the Stanford Cardinal football team in our next post as well!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Previews, Previews, Previews

OK, in today's post, with three pretty big games taking place on Sunday, we'll have a trifecta of very brief previews. Since we've discussed the Raiders and Niners already this week, we'll keep it short with them, but I did want to post part of our Saturday article from BASBN's "The Giants Baseball Blog", previewing the upcoming game 3 of the NLDS. So here we go

Game 3 NLDS Preview

Now, with the series knotted at 1 game apiece, the ever so important game 3 takes place at Turner Field on Sunday evening as Jonathan Sanchez goes up against Tim Hudson. This is the one pitching match-up that favors the Braves in this series, so the Giants are going to need Sanchez to be on in order for him to keep pace with playoff-grizzled Hudson. Still, this pitching match-up should be a dandy. Sanchez has been nearly untouchable at times over his last 7 starts ( 44.2 IP, 0.11 era, 23 hits, 48 k's) but Hudson has that experience, and was tremendous in 2010, sporting a 17-9 record with a 2.83 era in 228 innings after missing most of '09 and much of '08. Of course, the key with Sanchez will be to keep the ball in the zone and get ahead of hitters. His last start basically showed his abilities in a nutshell, 5 shutout innings with 5 k's and 2 hits, but had to leave after just 5 innings cause he walked 5 batters. The Braves have a patient, professional hitting team that will not chase Sanchez's pitches out of the zone, so they'll make him throw strikes... For the Giants hitters, they have to approach Huddy much like they did Derek Lowe in game 1. Hudson's a sinker-baller and wants the Giants to beat the ball into the ground, so they have to make him get the ball up. Many of the Giants hitters haven't had much success vs. Hudson in the past, with the best success coming from Rowand (8 hits, including a homer, in 21 career ab's). With Cody Ross a career 2 for 25 vs. Huddy, Boch needs to seriously consider making that lineup switch for Sunday's game. For more Giants coverage all series long, check out The Giants Baseball Blog!

Raiders vs. Chargers

Even though the Raiders will play host to their SoCal rivals, they still will have their hands full with the Chargers. After looking subpar in losses to Kansas City and Seattle, the Chargers got back on track last week and smashed on the Cardinals, 41-10. Granted, the Cards are one of the worst teams in the league, the Chargers looked to have finally found themselves in 2010, as they've always been a bit of slow starters. The Raiders though, should be right in this one. Their stingy secondary will make things tough on Phillip Rivers' looks to his wideouts, but I'm not sure the Raiders will have an answer for an early season MVP candidate in Antonio Gates (24 catches, 386 yards, 6 TD's). Not too mention, the Raiders won't be operating at full-strength themselves, as Darren McFadden will likely sit vs. SD, taking away the Raiders top offensive weapon. That means Michael Bush and Raiders wideouts Louis Murphy and Derrious Heyward-Bey, who were basically invisible last week, need to step up big time to keep pace with San Diego. I just don't see the Raiders having enough without DMac out there at full-strength, and I take San Diego in this one, 28-16.

49ers vs. Eagles

Now, the Niners are reeling, coming into this game at 0-4, but luckily, they'll be facing an Eagles unit that will be without starting QB Michael Vick (who's regained his mojo) and will be with a banged up LeSean McCoy toting the ball for them. The Niners also get this game at home, where they won't have such a problem with crowd noise and that young offensive line. Still, the Niners are going to have to fight in order to earn their first win of the year. They're the best 0-4 team I've ever seen, but that doesn't mean anything unless they go on a massive winning streak, starting now. If they can contain Kolb and the speedy Eagles receivers (DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin), which will be no easy feat, then I think they should control the game. They definitely need to try and keep possession as often as possible, so that means Frank Gore should get at least 25 carries, and get established early. Through all their struggles, I think the Niners actually get this one right this weekend and beat the Eagles, 24-20.

Friday, October 8, 2010

49ers' Playoff Hopes Slipping Away Early

I have to apologize for waiting so long to give my reaction to the Niners' and Raiders' games last Sunday, heck, it's already time to preview their upcoming games for this weekend, as the Giants playoff chase and game one victory has us basking in the glory rather than ranting about a some sorry football teams. Follow the all our up-to-the-minute coverage at our Giants Baseball Blog (which you can follow for all breaking coverage with the Giants-Braves series).

We will certainly get into some playoff discussion here, especially once the championship series get underway, but I knew I couldn't this forever. The 49ers loss on Sunday was certainly a heartbreaker, and for a game I called a "must-win", for them to lose it like that was just as worse as them getting smoked, 41-7. They lost 16-14 on a last second field goal by Matt Bryant, in a game in which they did outplay the Falcons for the most part. But, like the San Francisco 49ers have had so much trouble doing, it seems like since the early 2000's and know, is finishing a team off when they have the chance and pulling away from teams rather than getting complacent. Again, that's an area I think that falls back on the coaching staff, and I'm not at all a guy who likes to kick someone (or some unit) when they're down, but it's becoming more and more apparent the lack of direction this team has, and it's so surprising because after seeing last year's finish and the way that team was fired up, I really was expecting Singletarry and company to pick right up where they left off last year.

Now, the team's off to an 0-4 start, and although the playoffs are a distant, distant reality, the 49ers are the best 0-4 football team I've ever scene, and their schedule does lighten up a lot over the next 4 weeks before their bye. They host an Eagles team who are just going through another switch at QB (albeit back to the original starter) and they have a real banged up LeSean McCoy carrying the ball for them. The Eagles seem to have lost that mojo they had going for them with Vick behind center, and people are now doubting Kolb all the sudden. I still think he has the weapons at his disposal and the arm to hurt the Niners, so they must game-plan accordingly, cause that's how I think Andy Reid is going to attack them. If they can somehow stop Philly, then they get the Raiders, the Panthers and the Broncos before the bye. None of those teams are easy victories, as the Raiders and Panthers both have nice D's and the Broncos can throw the ball, but the Niners should beat them. If they can somehow get to the bye week at 4-4, it would be an whole new season. 3-5 would even still have them in the hunt, but anything less than that and you can kiss the 2010 49ers season goodbye officially. These next 4 games are going to be huge in determining the Niners fate this year.

Raider Talk
: Even with Darren McFadden getting hurt, the Raiders had the offense to keep up with the Texans, they just couldn't quite contain Arian Foster (16 carries, 131 yards, 2 total TD's) who played only part of the game due to disciplinary reasons. Matt Schaub wasn't so much the issue, although he did throw for 2 scores. Unfortunately, with the big plays you get with Gradkowski at QB, so come the turnovers, as he turned it over 3 times which did cost the Raiders. You turn one of those Raiders TO's into a TD, and that's the difference in the game right there. It was also didn't help that they were without their top pass-catcher, Louis Muprhy, at 100% and he missed a lot of offensive plays. Zach Miller did have his breakout game in 2010 that we were waiting for though (11 catches, 122 yards, 1 TD) and McFadden contributed heavily in the passing game as well, but the Texan secondary weren't allowing Gradkowski room downfield, or at least the Raiders wideouts weren't getting there. All in all though, when you give up 31 points, odds are your going to lose, so you can't really put this one on the Raiders offense.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

49ers' and Raiders' Sunday Preview

So, I wanted do a little something different this week, it's actually something I've been meaning to get to each week since the start of the NFL season, but this is the first time I'm actually going to posting a match-up preview/prediction of Sunday's Niners and Raiders games. So here we go:

49ers @ Falcons

I talked a lot about this game and how important it will be for the Niners in our last post here at BASJ, so I'm not going to repeat everything again, so this preview will be short and sweet. Of course I'd like to see them get Frank Gore established early, cause it will open up the passing game, but I also would like to see Alex Smith take shots downfield right off the bat in order to keep the Falcons guessing. The 49ers need to get out to an early lead, and actually get into the end-zone early on in order to give their offense a push in the right direction. When they get down inside the red zone, and fail to score touchdowns early, I think it's going to be another long Sunday afternoon in ATL. I'm not so much worried about bull-dozing back Michael Turner as I am Matt Ryan picking apart the Niners secondary (who are now without starting SS Michael Lewis who basically quit Friday), who've allowed every QB they've faced this year a QB rate of 108 or higher. For a defense that was supposed to be a top-10 defense coming into the year, that's pretty bad (even more so considering they let Matt Cassell rate over 111 vs. the Chiefs last week). That said, I still think the 49ers very much have a shot in this game. If they get that offense going early, then the defense will respond. Still though, the games in Atlanta, and the Falcons are a tough team. If I were to wager on this game, I'd take the Falcons in a close one, 28-24.

Texans @ Raiders

The Raiders play host to the high-powered Houston Texans this week in Oakland, and typically, this preview would be a few sentences stating how the Raiders would essentially need a miracle to win this football game. However, the Raiders are a completely new team this year, and although they're still just 1-2, they just as easily could be 2-1, and they're playing with confidence right now. The Raiders secondary, which is one of the best in the NFL, will have their hands full, and will get a true test in covering Houston's trio of Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, and they can't lose site of TE Owen Daniels, who's just waiting for his breakout game for 2010. The real challenge for the Raiders though, will be to slow down 2010's biggest breakout star, RB Arian Foster (who leads the league with 406 rush yards and 3 TD's). The Raiders should really take a look at what Dallas did to Matt Schaub last week (blitzes and a ton of pressure), and try to best mimic that this Sunday. Foster's likely to get his 100+ yards regardless, so they must stop Houston's aerial attack. Of all underdogs this week, I think the Raiders really do have the best shot at the upset. Their two first round picks from '08 and '09 (Darren McFadden and Derrius Heyward-Bey) are starting to really play like first rounders, and 2nd year wideout Louis Murphy is rounding into a true #1 WR (300 yards and a score over his last 4 games), something the Raiders haven't had since Tim Brown (sorry, but Randy Moss wasn't a #1 while in Oakland). With Gradkowski behind center in the 3 games he's played with Louis Murphy, the wideout has been elite; 15 catches, 338 yards and 3 TD's. Unfortunately, the Raiders top-2 wide receivers could miss Sunday's game. Murphy has a banged up collarbone and DHB has a bum groin. Missing those two would be a big blow to the Raiders offense and certainly effect the outcome. If they both play and are healthy enough to be effective, I might be crazy, but I actually think it will open it up for DMac to go nuts (150+ yards, 2 TD's) and the Raiders to win it, 27-24. Without Murph and DHB, the Texans take it, 28-13.