The 2014 Raiders season is now a rousing success.
I was not optimistic heading into yesterday's game. If you had told me the Raiders were going to eek out a close one, I would have been shocked. And somehow we came out and kicked the 49ers ass up and down the field all day long. It was so bad that we can't even take credit for slamming the 49ers' title window shut. We didn't make them that awful, we just found them that way.
This one is still sinking in. Usually I wait until my thoughts have congealed somewhat to put them down, but this time we'll have at it still somewhat giddily discombobulated...
First off- the game. And first off in the game, huge props to Tony Sparano for sending in Janikowski for that 57 yard field goal on the drive after Kaepernick threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage (ha ha). On the iffy field, that was a tough call, and he nailed it. The points were huge, the risk was worth it, and it was very encouraging to see some aggressive yet wholly intelligent coaching. Huge props to The Polish Cannon for stepping up and nailing it. And huge props to Marquette King for his performance on the day. His contributions in the first half were enormous in keeping pressure on the Niners.
The whole team appeared to be in the zone yesterday. I was of the feeling that getting a win before this week was huge for our chances, and that's how it looked. They played loose and confident, every unit, all game long. Setting the tone, not taking any crap but not acting like idiots either.
The announcers (Ronde Barber was on color, and came off as barely literate. Still better than his brother though) made a few comments suggesting that the Raiders, and their fans, were way more into the rivalry aspect of this game than the Niners. I am 1000% OK with that. It was actually very interesting. Players like Antonio Smith and Donald Penn who have only been here months spoke afterwards about how important this game was to "real" Raiders. It's clearly not just me who hates the Niners. It really says something that NFL players, who don't often get into the rah-rah aspect of too many, let alone inter-conference rivalries, get dropped into the Bay and quickly view the Niners with a sincere attitude of "fuuuuuuuuuck those guys."
The Raiders exhibited enough dominance to warrant queries of exactly where they've been hiding it all year. On the personnel side I think you can simply chalk it up to Carr improving weekly and us wanting it that much more than them. On the coaching side though, specifically on the offense, yeah they finally woke the fuck up. All the hand-wringing about Marcel Reese... it's not that difficult, THAT'S what he should be doing- lining up wherever and catching the ball. Our WRs are so bad that he and Mychal Rivera need to chip in whenever, however. And when our WRs eventually aren't so bad, hopefully sooner than later, oh man Derek Carr is going to be a beast. He is The Franchise.
And did I mention the Niners are done? There is no telling how delicious their suffering gets from here. It's consensus opinion that Jim Harbaugh is likely to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders next year. Last year, when it was being reported that he was the one in their organization insisting on leniency for Aldon Smith, this news would have been troubling. This year, the Niners have gotten into dirt that clearly originated way higher up the food chain than the head coach. Harbaugh isn't cutting checks to crooked cops.
Kaepernick played bad enough yesterday to probably overtake Greg Roman for the esteemed title of Niners' Scapegoat. I don't understand why they don't run the offense the same way they did his first year, all the read-option and getting him out of the pocket. I don't understand how running 8-10 more plays a game catering to his strengths that give you a better chance to win would be hindering his development.
The Niners had been very vocal about this counter-intuitive plan of attack since the earliest stages of the 2014 season. It's not like they had weapons at WR collecting dust. They didn't make any off-season improvements worth changing up what had been working. It made me wonder. I came up with a pretty sweet little conspiracy theory...
What if Harbaugh was forcing the opportunity to see what Kaepernick's potential was as a pocket QB before he had to make a choice on his place of employment for the foreseeable future?
Kaep strikes me as the one dude out there big and fast enough to have a real shot at being a dual-threat QB for an extended period of time. That hilarious contract they got him to sign this year, that allows them to dump him whenever with no consequences, is yet another reason to throw caution to the wind and let it all hang out. But instead they made the conscious choice to largely do the league a favor and bottle up Kaep themselves. Doesn't sound "all in" to me.
Don't let me offer constructive criticism though. Yesterday was precisely what Jed York was asking for when he embarrassed his team with his "not acceptable" tweet on Thanksgiving night. Good for them that they got their bougie new stadium done in their brief little window. But it's going to be fun watching them navigate an unexpected rebuilding phase with a disappointed, fair-weather fan base and the highest ticket prices in the league.
As for the Raiders, the win took them down to the fifth pick in the 2015 draft. With a robust two victories, both against teams with winning records in their last three games, they will escape consideration as a historically inept team. There was no way they were going to contend this year, so in practical terms two wins is better than seven, and with one of them being against the Niners the other, and any that follow, are gravy. Next year, however, we will have bigger goals than knocking off the stray irrelevant, washed up, second-rate franchise.
All time series: Raiders 7 - Niners 6. #paythetoll