Surge And Destroy - 49ers 34, Raiders 20

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor

By Daniel Brown
Mercury News
In a joyous 49ers locker room, Coach Mike Nolan handed out game ball after game ball Sunday. Down the hall in the visitors' locker room, Raiders Coach Art Shell pinpointed mistake after mistake.
The distance between the two coaches was less than 100 feet.
The gap between their teams was enormous.
The 49ers (2-3) were lively and balanced in their 34-20 victory, moving the ball at will, forcing five turnovers and blocking a punt. Frank Gore rushed for a career-high 134 yards, Alex Smith had a career-high three touchdown passes, and cornerback Walt Harris had a career-high three interceptions.
The Raiders (0-4), meanwhile, looked clueless in the second half and suffered their 10th consecutive defeat, the longest current losing streak in the NFL. Randy Moss managed career touchdown catch No. 100, but turnovers led to 24 consecutive 49ers points to start the second half.
Nolan: ``This was certainly a very big win for us for a lot of different reasons. We played well as a team coming back after last week's loss.''
Shell: ``We didn't do a good job of tackling, screwed up the punt coverage and just didn't capitalize on the opportunities.''
Few expected the matchup between the Bay Area's struggling franchises to be so lopsided. The Raiders entered the game as the league's worst team since 2003 (13-38), but the 49ers were the second-worst at 14-38.
Each team was coming off a miserable defeat.
But after trailing 13-7 at halftime, the 49ers took control by scoring the first 24 points of the second half. The Raiders aided the surge with repeated mistakes, both mental and physical.
``No disrespect to them,'' Raiders running back LaMont Jordan said, ``but we have better players than they do. . . . We should have won, but obviously didn't.''
Jordan was at the heart of the play that said it all about the 49ers' and Raiders' contrasting fortunes. It came with 10:30 to play in the third quarter, when Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter threw a swing pass to the left flat.
Jordan was unable to catch the ball, which was thrown slightly behind him. Thinking the play was dead, he stood flat-footed and waited for the next play.
49ers defensive end Melvin Oliver, meanwhile, kept hustling. He recognized that the pass was actually a backward lateral, scooped up the fumble and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown to push the 49ers' lead to 31-13.
``I didn't hear a whistle, so I picked up the ball and took off,'' Oliver said. ``Not too many guys get a chance to do something like that so it was surreal. It was a defensive lineman's dream.''
Oliver, a 279-pound rookie, said he took some ribbing from teammates on the play for not making the most of his chance and unleashing a touchdown dance. Oliver protested that teammate Anthony Adams (297 pounds) belly-flopped on him before he could celebrate.
Jordan said, ``It's something I should have been aware of. It was a very costly mistake. You can't question the officials. They call it as they see it.''
Most of the second half was like that, with the 49ers pouncing at every opportunity.
On the Raiders' first possession of the third quarter, 49ers rookie Manny Lawson raced unblocked through the line to block Shane Lechler's punt. The 49ers recovered at the 9-yard line, and, three plays later, Smith connected with Arnaz Battle. It gave Battle his second touchdown of the game and gave the 49ers a 14-13 lead.
``You can't give up plays like that. That one hurt big-time,'' Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. ``How frustrated do I feel? It's off the charts, man.''
The 49ers, meanwhile, took out their frustration from a week previous, when they lost 41-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs -- only their second shutout loss since 1977.
Gore fumbled on the first series of that game, setting the tone for a day of ineptitude, but the 49ers trusted him to set a different tone against the Raiders. He got the first three carries of the game en route to 172 total yards (134 rushing, 38 receiving) and no fumbles.
Smith also bounced back from a shaky performance, completing 15 of 19 passes and posting a career-best 120.5 passer rating. The offensive line kept him sack-free.
All those big days kept Nolan busy in the locker room as he gave out game balls to Harris, Smith, Gore and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
The Raiders, meanwhile, might wonder if they will get to hand out a game ball at all this season. They reached a double-digit losing streak for only the second time in franchise history. (The Raiders lost 19 in a row starting in 1962.)
Against a 49ers secondary that had yet to register an interception this season, Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo combined for four.
``It's a bunch of things. It's not one group or one person,'' tackle Robert Gallery said. ``There were plays throughout the game that we could have made and we didn't. It's pretty tough to win in this league playing the way we did.''