OAKLAND -- So, as we should have expected, the National Football League is a cheap, trashy liar. And when we say that we apologize to cheap, trashy liars everywhere.
Everyone who was good is no longer, with a margin of plus or minus five, and everyone who was lousy is fixed.
The Oakland Del Rios? Dead, until they weren’t. The San Francisco Tomsulae? Brilliant, and now they’re not close, not by a long shot.
But we’ve had enough years to learn the value of a good first impression (there is none), so anyone who got taken in deserved to do so.
[INSTANT REPLAY: 49ers smoked by Antonio Brown, Steelers' D]
We’ll give the 49ers this much – they used to be a lousy fourth quarter team, but they did master the essence of garbage time in getting laid low in Pittsburgh. They spent 50 of their 82 plays on three drives that netted zero points. Colin Kaepernick’s quarterback rating was 40 points better after the game stopped mattering. They had the ball for more than 60 percent of the game and were never a factor.
As for the Raiders, they could not have been more removed from their season opener if they had traded rosters with the New England Patriots. Their defense looks richly and profoundly poor (and yes, this is but two weeks rather than one, but allowing 528 points isn’t really going to work for them, trust me), but quarterback Derek Carr resuscitated his wounded body parts to turn it his best number-based game as a pro. He was more efficient in last year’s win over San Francisco, but as a matter of aggregating (most completions and yards, second best accuracy) and drama (best close by a huge margin).
So what does this mean? They’re both 1-1, neither one looks like a playoff team, and they both look profoundly unsettled. When 49er linebacker NaVorro Bowman said after the Steeler loss, “My thing is, I want to see how we respond,” what he was saying is, “I don’t know who or what we are.” The turnover that 49er truebies said wasn’t as dramatic as naysayers naysaid actually is significant, and though not all of it is necessarily worse, this team now knows how little knows about itself.
Put another way, the 42-17 loss to Denver last year didn’t look nearly as bad as fast as this.
The Raiders, on the other hand, nursed an early lead due to Baltimore errors, took a series of harsh blows but rallied at the end because Joe Flacco couldn’t put the dagger in when the Ravens had a chance to finish their comeback. For a team that has known how to give in to despair too many times in its last decade, this was one of those wins that could actually resonate awhile.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders blow lead, strike late to stun Ravens]
Or, this being the lying, morally indifferent National Football League, they could go to Cleveland this coming week and do what they’ve done 24 of the last 27 times – lose on the road, usually convincingly (an average of two touchdowns). And the 49ers could go to Arizona and beat a Cardinal team that has scored 79 points in two games against teams that . . .
. . . but there we go again, trying to make sense of what cannot be fathomed. The 49ers and Raiders have established that they can do things, but they shouldn’t be trusted to actually do them regularly.