Programming note: Watch Raiders Press Conference Live today at 2:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California, or streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – These weekly positive/negative installments have proven to be a conversation starter. After last week’s 52-0 humiliation in St. Louis, I was asked on several occasions how I mined three positives from a mushroom cloud.
It wasn’t easy, but I’ve got a vivid imagination. Life’s a bit easier this week. The Raiders beat the 49ers 24-13 on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t a victory given away by the better team. The Raiders earned this win with quality play.
Let’s breakdown three key parts of Sunday’s victory:
1. The Great Wall of Oakland: Quarterback Derek Carr was near-perfect on Sunday afternoon, but he had some help from very big friends. The Raiders offensive line was downright dominant against a talented 49ers defensive front, and deserve games balls as much as anyone on the roster.
Carr was under no pressure of any kind 21 times in 30 pass attempts. He felt the heat just nine times all game, and left Sunday’s game with a clean jersey and stats that reflect significant time to throw.
Center Stefen Wisniewski had an excellent game blocking and making reads and checks in protection. Left tackle Donald Penn was stout despite having Justin Smith and Aldon Smith together on his side quite often. Austin Howard continues to improve at right guard and Gabe Jackson held his own on the interior.
The effort is going to cost Carr a dinner. And it could get expensive.
“I’m a little worried about that one, but, I think my wife is more worried than I am especially with Christmas around the corner,” Carr said. “Honestly, they deserve so much credit. They’ve done a great job all year and we work really hard at our protection plan. We work really hard at trying to have no sacks and those things. They work their tails off. I kept telling them during the game, ‘Guys, I’m literally just standing back here. This is awesome. You’re doing a great job, please keep it up.’”
2. Pass rush gets going: The Raiders imported veteran pass rushers Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and LaMarr Woodley and draft pick Khalil Mack with the expectation that they would form a feared four or five-man pass rush each and every week. That hasn’t happened.
On Sunday afternoon, they were at their very best. The Raiders registered five sacks, often without having to blitz. They harassed mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick all game long. He was under pressure 15 times in 25 dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus. He completed just 2-of-8 passes under pressure, which made it hard for the 49ers to operate later in downs.
3. Winning the turnover battle: The Raiders had just eight takeaways entering Week 14, but intercepted Kaepernick twice on Sunday to help secure victory. Brandian Ross’ first professional interception came on the 49ers first pass. Charles Woodson’s 59th professional pick came on one of Kaepernick’s final throws.
As important was Carr and the skill players keeping possession to themselves. The Raiders were plus-2 in turnovers, a rare thing during a tough season. On Sunday, the Silver and Black got it right.