SFI's LIVE Preseason Blog: 49ers vs. Raiders

It all begins tonight across the San Francisco bay for the 49ers, who begin their consequential 2008 preseason vs. their neighborhood rivals in the annual summer rendition of the Battle of the Bay, and SFI will keep you up to date on the action with live reports and commentary from McAfee Stadium in Oakland. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

7:00 p.m. Greetings, 49ers fan. An exhibition season that will bear watching begins here in the half-empty concrete bowl previously know as the Oakland Coliseum. As the 49ers begin to start seriously sorting out their "open competition" at quarterback tonight, a thought strikes me: Could be witnessing the beginning of the J.T. O'Sullivan era in San Francisco? Inquiring minds want to know. Shudder at the thought.

7:03: As the 49ers' kickoff return team heads onto the field, Mike Nolan is talking to a television report on the sidelines. The question, naturally, is about quarterbacks, and what he is looking to see from O'Sullivan, Alex Smith and Shaun Hill tonight. "It's how they handle the game, handle the huddle and move the ball down the field," Nolan says, before summarizing, "It's about scoring points." Yeah, that's the bottom line for a San Francisco offense that was last in the NFL in scoring points last season.

7:08: Oakland kicker Aaron Elling steps into the ball and we're underway. Allen Rossum shows some nice weaving, darting quickness returning the opening kickoff, cutting through a hole to get the ball out near the 30-yard line. The result looked a lot like what Maurice Hicks gave the 49ers last year, but Rossum sure looked better doing it.

7:09: O'Sullivan, rolling to his right, has a defender in his face immediately, but manages to get rid of the ball and find tight end Vernon Davis in the flat to complete his first pass. But it's a straight handoff on third-and-4, and the 49ers are forced to punt.

7:11: Hey, look at that! It's Kwame Harris now wearing No. 77 in silver and black, starting at right tackle for the Raiders. That should give quarterback JaMarcus Russell something to worry about this season every time he goes back to pass. Just kidding, folks. We actually liked good ol' Kwame during his time in SF. Good luck to the guy in his new home.

7:13: Russell goes deep right away, testing Walt Harris down the left sideline with speedster Drew Carter. But Harris is right there to make the play.

7:15: Justin Smith shows fantastic backside pursuit to get to ball carrier Justin Fargas at the line of scrimmage, but Fargas breaks out of his and charges forward for the game's initial first down. Smith looked great getting there, now he just has to finish.

7:16: It didn't take Dashon Goldson long to make a play. There he is, flashing into the backfield from the safety position to stop Fargas for no gain. Goldson is a player. You're going to be seeing a lot of this second-year kid this season, not to mention for seasons to come.

7:17: And look at that. The San Francisco pass rush, the team's Achilles' heel last season, comes through on its first third-down opportunity of the season. The 49ers swarm Russell on third-and-10, and he can't get away as he's blanketed and finally tripped up by Ray McDonald. Nice. The Raiders must punt.

7:21: O'Sullivan is on the money with a quick slant to rookie Josh Morgan, who bursts into the open field to pick up San Francisco's initial first down. That was pretty. That's the way the Mike Martz quick-hitting passing game is supposed to be run.

7:23: O'Sullivan makes a nice scramble away from pressure on second down, but on third down, he is heavily pressured and throws a pass backwards to DeShaun Foster, who's dropped for a loss. Andy Lee trots in to punt again.

7:27: Another excellent play in coverage by Walt Harris, who is all over Javon Walker, timing his break on the ball perfeclty. Yeah, Harris is getting old by NFL standards, but the guy can still play.

7:33: There's some nice push from the edge by Tully Banta-Cain, and fullback Justin Griffith practically bear hugs Banta-Cain to keep him from getting to Russell. The holding penalty pushes the Raiders back and eventually thwarts their drive after three first downs that had taken the ball into San Francisco territory.

7:38: Foster bursts through a hole on the right side for a first down, breaking a tackle along the way. He's going to be a nice 2 in a 1-2 punch with Frank Gore.

7:42:O'Sullivan to Morgan again on the last play of the first quarter. It's a pinpoint pass delivered on the hands of the rookie after he runs a perfect route, and it's good for a 25-yard gain. Hmmm… O'Sullivan's looking pretty good so far. So is Morgan, who doesn't look much like a rookie, more less a sixth-round draft pick.

7:45: It's O'Sullivan to Morgan again for a 20-yard gain with a great throw over the outstretched arms of a defender. Morgan is getting single coverage and making the Raiders pay. He makes a nice leaping grab for another 49ers' first down.

7:50: O'Sullivan drops back and looks deep. He fires for the end zone, but it looks like a miscommunication as Morgan cuts off his route short. The ball is thrown right into the arms of safety Stanford Routt, who makes the easy pick near the goal line with nobody around him. Routt is hit by Arnaz Battle on the return and fumbles, and 49ers tackle Joe Staleey had a shot at the ball near the 2-yard line. All Staley has to do is fall on it, but he tries to pick it up with his hands, and the ball skips away, giving the Raiders an opportunity to recover it. But the Raiders go nowhere on three plays and punt from their end zone.

7:58: O'Sullivan and Morgan hook up for yet another nice gain, this one going for 15 yards and a first down into Oakland territory. But after a false start on Davis turns a third-and-1 into a third-and-6, O'Sullivan fumbles as he scrambles away from pressure and tries to lunge for the first down. That's two turnovers for O'Sullivan.

8:05: A very nice open-field tackle by Shawntae Spencer prevents a big game, and the Raiders eventually stall in the red zone. They go for it on fourth-and-short, but running back Michael Bush is stopped short of the 10-yard line and the 49ers hold. Nice job by the San Francisco defense. The game remains a scoreless tie as we reach the middle of the second quarter.

8:08: Alex Smith takes over behind center for the 49ers. On third-and-6, Smith is pressured heavily and has no chance to set up. He gets away from pressure and scrambles out of the pocket, but his pass to the sideline is incomplete.

8:10: On the ensuing punt, Keith Lewis misses returner Johnnie Lee Higgins in the open field just as Higgins hauls in Lee's punt. Higgins makes the 49ers pay, racing through the coverage team and around the left side to complete a sudden 53-yard punt return for a touchdown. The coverage team breakdown by the 49ers puts the Raiders ahead with 3:26 remaining before halftime.
Raiders 7, 49ers 0

8:15: That's the Alex Smith everybody wants to see. On third-and-long, Smith sets up, stands strong in the pocket, then fires a rocket spiral downfield that leads Battle perfectly for a long gain and first down into Oakland territory. But on the next play, Smith throws behind his running back on a screen play that looked set up to go for big yardage.

8:18: Another nice play by Smith on third-and-5. Working from an empty backfield, he buys time by breaking out of the pocket to the right side, then finds Battle for the first down. The 49ers are moving deep in Oakland territory at the two-minute warning.

8:24: Zak Keasey, who already has had a few nice short-yardage runs, is stopped short on third down. The 49ers consider going for it on fourth-and-2 from the 4-yard line, but ultimately decide to bring in kicker Joe Nedney, who drills the ball through the goal posts on a 22-yard field goal attempt with 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter to bring the 49ers within four points at the half.
Raiders 7, 49ers 3

8:32: As Mike Nolan says at halftime, the 49ers moved the ball but were their own worst enemy, hurting themselves with the two turnovers in Oakland territory and the coverage breakdown on Higgins' touchdown return. The 49ers hold a 146-107 edge in total yardage at the half and pretty much have controlled the action. But their big mistakes are the difference on the scoreboard.

8:36: O'Sullivan went 5 of 8 passing for 71 yards and the one pick in his starting debut with the 49ers. Smith was 4 of 8 for 43 yards in the first half, and he'll be coming out at quarterback for the 49ers to begin the second half. He may play through the third quarter. Josh Morgan's first half in his professional debut? Four receptions for 68 yards. Very nice. You'll be seeing more from him this year, to be sure.

8:43: There's a Jay Moore sighting. The second-year linebacker, whose rookie season was washed out by an ankle injury suffered in the final preseason game, makes a nice play in coverage near the sideline to keep a short pass to a minimal gain. That's what Moore needs to work on – playing in space as he continues to make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker after playing 4-3 defensive end in college. Moore needs to make up some ground in the competition for a roster spot, and plays like that are a nice start.

8:48: The second-team 49ers defenders had been making some nice plays, but Bush takes a short pass and runs right through them for a big gain to the San Francisco 14. On the next play, Keith Lewis makes a fine play in coverage, knocking down Andrew Walter's pass in the end zone.

8:53: Facing fourth-and-1 at the San Francisco 5, the Raiders decide to go for it. They give the ball to Bush, who gets plenty more than just the first down. Bush breaks over the right side and then bulls over a 49ers defender to burst into the end zone for the score, then goes and takes a leap into the Black Hole.

8:56: The Raiders kick the PAT, but the 49ers are flagged for delay of game on the play. Oakland opts to take the point off scoreboard and brings back in its offense to go for a two-point conversion. Walter fakes to Bush, drops back, then finds receiver Chaz Shillens over the middle. The two-point play puts the Raiders in command by a dozen points.
Raiders 15, 49ers 3

9:01: Smith looks sharp setting up and completing a pass over the middle to Dominique Zeigler for an 11-yard gain and first down. But Zeigler is stripped of the ball, and it's another takeaway for the Raiders and consequential mistake for the 49ers, whose turnover total is now at three as Oakland is set up again in San Francisco territory.

9:08: The San Francisco defense holds this time, and now it's Shaun Hill in at quarterback for the Niners. He completes his first pass, and then it's two nice runs by Thomas Clayton to take the 49ers into Oakland territory. Clayton shows both power and burst, and he takes it to the edge and turns the corner to give the Niners a first down.

9:11: So much for that drive. On fourth-and-3 from the Oakland 36, Hill scrambles out of the pocket, but his throw intended for Jason Hill is off target and intercepted by safety Hiram Eugene. That's four turnovers for the 49ers, and another possible scoring drive aborted.

9:14: Atiyah Ellison bursts into the Oakland backfield and makes a big hit for a loss. Ellison is a name you might not here much, but he stuck on the roster last season, and is making an impression during training camp. He can play on the nose or at end in the 3-4 and has a definite shot to stick along the defensive line.

9:16: Undrafted rookie free agent Louis Rankin makes safety D.J. Parker look silly as he puts a move on Parker near the line of scrimmage and then beats him around the corner. Rankin is off to the races, simply running away from Parker and streaking down the left sideline for a 72-yard gain before he finally is hogtied by Marcus Hudson. Parker will dread watching that play on film tomorrow.

9:20: The San Francisco defense stiffens, and the Raiders settle for a short field goal to pad their led with 11:41 remaining.
Raiders 18, 49ers 3

9:24: After a nice return of the ensuing kickoff by Delanie Walker, Hill gets the 49ers moving, completing passes to Zeigler and tight end Billy Bajema to take San Francisco back into Raiders territory yet again.

9:26: A nice reverse by Jason Hill takes the ball to the Oakland 30. It's a nice wrinkle in the Martz offense. Let's see that play a few times this year.

9:28: Hill shows great touch putting a pass over two defenders and right on the hands of Jason Hill in the corner of the end zone. But Hill shows stone hands this time, dropping what would have been a fine touchdown reception. Shaun Hill can't throw a ball any better than that. Nobody can.

9:31: Former 49er Josh Shaw blows past tackle Joe Toledo – mark it down now, he won't be making the team – and sacks Hill on third down. So another San Francisco drive deep into Oakland territory is halted, but the 49ers at least get three points out of this one as kicker Ricky Schmitt – who also doubles as a punter – comes in and drills a 38-yard field goal.
Raiders 18, 49ers 6

9:37: A nice hit by Hudson, who goes low in the open field to somersault an Oakland receiver. Rookie Reggie Smith comes in high on the play to get in his own lick. Smith has been in on a few plays and also is looking good in his professional debut.

9:40: The Raiders go for it on fourth-and-7 near midfield, but Smith is there to make the play in coverage, making a fine break on the ball and giving the Oakland receiver no chance. The 49ers get the ball back with excellent field position. Reggie Smith. Mark the name down.

9:44: Clayton takes a shovel pass from Hill and bounces off a defender to turn it into a first down. The 49ers have to find a way to keep this kid on the roster this year. Clayton needs to work on his game as a receiver, however.

9:46: The Niners take the ball to the 30, and go for it on fourth down there. Hill buys time with his feet, but his throw into the end zone finds nobody home, and San Francisco comes with away with no points once again.

9:49: It's getting late, the 49ers are running out of time, and now they're using their timeouts to try to extend the game. But on third down, quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo fools the defense on a bootleg and he is all alone as he turns the left corner.
9:54: Another Jay Moore sighting. The second-year player tosses aside an Oakland defender and charges in to dump Tuiasosopo for a sack. Moore is showing like he needs to show.

9:57: Shuan Hill goes to work with one minute remaining. He completes passes to Zeigler and Clayton, then to Robert Ortiz for a first down near midfield.

9:58: With 12 seconds left, Hill drops back and looks to go long – if he can go long. But he runs out of time and is wrapped up by rookie end Greyson Gunheim for a sack. The 49ers are flagged for an illegal formation, so the game ends with a whimper on that play.

10:00: So that's a wrap from Oakland. Not exactly an auspicious preseason debut for the 49ers, but it would have looked a lot better without the turnovers. Did this game do anything to clear up anything in the quarterback competition? Only time will tell about that one. And now time is ticking away towards the Niners' next preseason game, eight days from now against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park. The Niners will hope that game ends up looking a little better than this one.
Final score: Raiders 18, 49ers 6

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