KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:05 PDT
SITE: Monster Park in San Francisco
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
RECORDS: Oakland 0-3, San Francisco 1-3
2006 NFL RANKINGS: Raiders: offense 32nd (15th rush, 32nd pass); defense 9th (28th rush, 3rd pass). 49ers: offense 13th (12th rush, 14th pass); defense 24th (21st rush, 24th pass)
SERIES: Eleventh meeting. Raiders lead the series 6-4, but the 49ers won the last meeting 23-20 in overtime as quarterback Jeff Garcia threw for 282 yards and Terrell Owens torched Charles Woodson for 12 receptions and 191 yards in Woodson's first game back after a broken shoulder. The last game in San Francisco also went to overtime, with the Raiders prevailing 34-28 on Rich Gannon's 31-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers have found a workhorse in RB Frank Gore, but the second-year player has also fumbled in every game this season. That has contributed to the team's slow starts - San Francisco has been outscored 45-10 in the first quarter and 82-20 in the first half this season. WR Antonio Bryant is the team's biggest weapon, and QB Alex Smith has to find a way to get him involved early on. However, defenses have been able to focus on slowing him down with few other dangerous threats at Smith's disposal, especially with rookie TE Vernon Davis injured. The Raiders' passing game has far bigger issues with QB Andrew Walter struggling while playing behind a shaky offensive line. The Raiders like to use RB LaMont Jordan to set up the vertical passing game, but look for Walter to rely more on the short passing game this week to avoid the turnovers the Raiders simply can't afford at this point.
FAST FACTS: Raiders: Walter is being sacked once for every 5.6 pass plays called. ... WR Randy Moss has scored a touchdown in 47.4 percent of his games with the team after scoring in 76.5 percent with Minnesota. 49ers: Smith has more passing yards (906) than he had during his entire rookie season (875). ... Gore is second in the NFL with 460 yards from scrimmage.
BY THE NUMBERS: 31 -- Number of passing yards improvement quarterback Alex Smith has made from all of last season, coming on 32 fewer passing attempts with 20 fewer sacks than a year ago. 9.5 -- Quarterback Andrew Walter's rating in the fourth quarter (7-for-22, 91 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions).
QUOTES TO NOTE
--- "Yeah, but it's always a disappointment when it happens. Because you hit plateaus and valleys and you like to climb again. But each week you're hoping it's the next week. But you do expect that from young team that's maturing and growing. But you need more consistency than what we've given the last two weeks." -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan on the expected rough spots and bad games from a young team.
--- "It's like anything. Any time you get a new regime, new personnel, everything changes so the players have to change. We have to adapt. It's kind of like a baby being born. Everything is new." -- Raiders cornerback Tyrone Poole on Oakland's struggles.
49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers must do a better job of starting the game. They've been outscored 45-10 in the first quarter of their four games this season, and 82-20 in the first half. The 49ers need to do a better job of executing, offensively and defensively, in the first half. Quarterback Alex Smith has to hit on some high-percentage passes early in the game. They would be wise to get the ball in the hands of Antonio Bryant early in the game, something they've been unable to do consistently this season. Bryant has 310 receiving yards in the first four games. Running back Frank Gore is a big key for the 49ers. He has rushed for 331 yards and has another 129 yards receiving. But Gore has to do a better job of taking care of the football. He has four fumbles in four games. In order for Smith to have time to throw, the 49ers will probably have to use a fullback, Moran Norris or Chris Hetherington, to help out Kwame Harris on Raiders DE Derrick Burgess, who led the NFL with 16 sacks last season. Defensively, the 49ers must do a better job of using their scheme to get pressure on Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter. The 49ers have surrendered at average of 226.0 yards passing game. While the secondary has come under some scrutiny, the team's spotty pass rush is perhaps more responsible for the big day passing that Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard has last week in the 41-0 victory over the 49ers. The 49ers have been performed well against the run on first and second downs. "In the passing game, we're still a little short-handed," coach Mike Nolan said. "It's not necessarily on the back end. Sometimes it's up front from a pressure standpoint. There's no magic wand."
RAIDERS GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Raiders have not changed. They will attempt to control the ball with the run, and then strike deep - a tactic that has failed miserably in terms of the passing game. Shell hinted at more patience in the passing game this week, taking the short throws when offered, which could mean good things for possession receivers such as Ron Curry and TE Courtney Anderson. Defensively, the Raiders face a quarterback in Alex Smith who has similar skills to Cleveland's Charlie Frye. Their defensive plan will be similar - get a decent pass rush, slow a hurting 49ers running game and tighten the defense on third down.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--- 49ers CB Walt Harris and Shawntae Spencer, who have been less the problem for the team's pass-defense deficiencies than the toothless pass rush, vs. Raiders WR Randy Moss and Alvis Whitted, who have had little impact in the passing game mostly because of the team's unstable situation at quarterback
--- 49ers DE Bryant Young, who is still the team's best defensive lineman, vs. RT Langston Walker, whose inconsistent play is one of the reasons the offense has been unable to generate anything.
--- 49ers RT Kwame Harris, who was handled easy by Chiefs rookie DE Tamba Hali last week, vs. DE Derrick Burgess, who has two sacks and figures to see a lot of double-team blocks. Burgess, the NFL sack leader a year ago, had two sacks against Cleveland and several other pressures. He tends to get his sacks in bunches and is riding a hot streak. Harris, the much-maligned first-round draft pick from Stanford, has had a tenuous hold on his job for four years and faces perhaps the biggest one-on-one test he will face this season.
--- LB Derek Smith, who had 15 tackles in a strong performance against the Chiefs, vs. RB LaMont Jordan, who has been unable to get going with just 183 rushing yards and 13 receiving yards in two games.
--- 49ers WR Antonio Bryant vs. Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Bryant, who leads the NFC in yards per catch at 22.1 yards, is as well-known for his volatility as for his playmaking. Asomugha is coming off a Cleveland game in which he had the first two interceptions of his career. His style is to play it safe, prevent the deep pass, then use his size (6-foot-2) to be physical. He can be prone to illegal contact and pass interference calls. Bryant will need to be patient and take underneath routes when given, then attempt to break the big play.
49ERS: LG Larry Allen (left knee) sustained a sprain of his medial collateral ligament on the opening drive of the 49ers' first game of the season. He returned to practice this week but is doubtful and won't play this week; TE Vernon Davis (right fibula) is expected to miss at least another three weeks with the hairline fracture he sustained during their 49ers' game Sept. 24 against the Eagles; WR Taylor Jacobs (hamstring) is questionable because of a strain he sustained Sept. 17. He went through practices last week but was not active for the game against the Chiefs.
RAIDERS: Brooks' absence at quarterback gives Walter another week to grow. He struggled mightily in relief against Baltimore and again against the Browns. While Walter probably had a legitimate shot to keep the job if he seized it with stellar play, at his current pace he will probably give it back to Brooks. Brooks hopes to return by the time the Raiders face the Broncos in Denver Oct. 15. With starting left cornerback Fabian Washington out with a hamstring pull, the Raiders are without their best cover corner. He will be replaced by either second-year man Stanford Routt or veteran Duane Starks, with either being a far more inviting target.
Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Raiders
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