In the 49ers first game of the season where the offense did not commit any turnovers the Red and Gold notched their first victory of the 2010 regular season. In the 49ers first game where the defense won the turnover battle forcing two interceptions the 49ers notched their first victory of the 2010 regular season. There is no coincidence that the 49ers won turnover battle and won the game, plain and simple. If you limit your mistakes and capitalize on your opponents miscues a W in the win column usually follows. A 17-9 victory over the Raiders was not anything great but at this point I will take the win. Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets (GGN). GGN’s are awarded on the 49ers play on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 the worst, 5 the best).
The 49ers offense had to deal with wet and rainy conditions all game which for a team looking to gain an offensive spark the weather did not come at the right time. Or so we thought at the end of the first-half with the score 6-3 in the Raiders favor with only 126 yards on offense by the 49ers. Alex Smith had a dismal first-half completing only eight of 20 passes for 98 yards and no touchdowns. It helped that Smith and the rest of the offense did not commit any turnovers but they could not convert for first-downs to sustain any drives.
After the first drive of the second half ended with a punt after six plays and an intentional grounding called against Smith that lost 12-yards it looked as if the 49ers offense was still as hapless as ever. Enter the 49ers second drive of the second half and the offense calmed the crowd with a 13 play, 91-yard touchdown drive that took eight minutes and 11 seconds off the clock. Smith drove the 49ers down to the Raiders 32 and connected on a deep pass with Michael Crabtree as the third quarter expired to put the Niners up 10-6.
With the way the 49ers defense was playing the 10-6 lead would have held up for the remainder of the game however the offense was not done yet. With the score 10-9 in the 49ers favor and a little over eight minutes left in the game Frank Gore busted for a 64-yard run that set up the 49ers at the Raiders 16-yard line. One play later Smith connected with Vernon Davis for a 17-yard touchdown to put the Niners up 17-9.
The 49ers offense was not spectacular but it was not anemic. Middle of the road offenses is enough to beat the Oakland Raiders but the 49ers need to build on what they did right in yesterdays win and carry it over to next week. Not scoring a touchdown until the end of the third quarter won’t allow you to win many games in the future. The 49ers offense needs to figure out how to score TD’s early in games and keep that momentum going until the end of the game. Not throwing interceptions or committing any fumbles was a huge reason for the success on offense.
One stat that says it all: Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell completed no passes from 1:05 of the first quarter until 10:37 of the fourth quarter.
The 49ers defense continued to give the 49ers offense the football back with limited scoring from the Raiders. The defense seemed to be saying to Smith and the offense ‘here, take the football and score!’ In the first-half Smith and the 49ers offense was not doing its part but the defense knew it had to continue making plays and stop the Raiders from scoring to give the offense a chance. The defense limited a powerful Raiders rushing attack to just 110-yards with 43-yards coming off wide receiver Louis Murphy’s second quarter run. Running back Michael Bush had 20 rushes for 47 yards averaging just 2.4 yards a carry.
With the defense stuffing the run all game and holding the Raiders to just six points in their two red zone attempts the 49ers defense also unloaded on Campbell and made him look like a rookie in his first career start. Campbell finished eight of 21 on passes for 83 yards and two interceptions. He finished with a 10.7 passer rating.
The 49ers defense did not wait around for the offense to make big plays. The defense knew if they eliminated the Raiders rushing game they could pounce on Campbell and force him to make turnovers. Strong safety Taylor Mays helped by almost securing two interceptions but it was linebacker Manny Lawson who got the defense going early with an INT in the second quarter. Lawson picked off a pass intended for Raiders tight end Zach Miller who finished with just two receptions for 48-yards.
The defenses biggest play of the day came late in the fourth quarter with the 49ers up 17-9. The D had been making plays all day with the 49ers offense not able to do much with what the defense handed them. In the second-half the 49ers offense stepped up and asked the defense to come up with one more stop. Linebacker Takeo Spikes answered the call with 2:46 left in the game and had an interception that sealed the deal for the 49ers first win of the season.
The 49ers were able to pull off wins last season with their offense playing poorly by relying on the defense to make plays and set the offense up in good field position. Collectivity this season the offense and defense had been playing poorly which resulted in five straight losses. With the offense playing so-so and the defense going out strong all game was enough for their first win. This might be the way the 49ers win games in the future. While it is not pretty if it results in a win I am for anything at this point.
In my game preview post one of the things I said to watch out for was the special teams making big tackles on returners. Newly signed Niner C.J. Spillman made an immediate impact with the team and in the game by making great tackles on the Raiders first kick and punt returns. Spillman’s kickoff tackle had the Raiders starting at their own 12-yard line and a tackle on the first punt had the Raiders at their own nine-yard line.
Andy Lee was his normal self and so was kicker Joe Nedney who converted both of his extra points and a 25-yard field goal. The special teams however lost one GGN due to three penalties and for only having nine men on the field for a field goal attempt in the second quarter. The 49ers had to call a timeout because they were missing two players and instead of kicking a field goal they punted the football into the end zone.
Mike Singletary did not have to think about pulling Smith as the quarterback which is good for him and Smith. The question is did Smith do enough to boost Singletary’s confidence? I think Smith did enough because the two touchdowns on offense came from Smith. Smith is still on a week-to-week basis as the starting quarterback but Singletary grew some confidence in him. In the first-half it was great seeing Singletary coaching Smith on the sidelines when the 49ers offense was not producing. This was a much different scene than last week against the Eagles when it seemed like Singletary was going to rip Smith’s head off and throw it into the stands. I give credit to Singletary for working with his quarterback rather than yelling at him.
The coach of the game yesterday was defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Manusky drew up a game plan that called for stuffing the run and a relentless pass rush with great coverage that did not allow Campbell to throw deep to his speedy wide receivers. The game plan he drew up for Raiders tight end Zach Miller was phenomenal as well. He used different linebackers throughout the game and forced Campbell to look elsewhere for receivers who were in tight coverage.
Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson is slowly moving his offense along while making them better each game. The predictability is mostly gone and his ability to use all the Niner playmakers on offense is stretching out the opponent’s defense. Johnson has to be happy that not only did the offense score twice but they did not commit any turnovers.
@ Carolina: The 49ers have a great chance to extend their first win into a winning streak next Sunday against the Panthers who are 0-5. What will help is that the Panthers have named Matt Moore their starter under center after a few weeks of experimenting with rookie Jimmy Clausen.