49ers vs. Raiders: Thumbs up and Thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for the 49ers after their 21-20 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders, including the team's power rushing attack, the offensive line's blocking, RB Glen Coffee, S Dashon Goldson, QBs Alex Smith, Shaun Hill and Nate Davis, Allen Rossum playing CB, red-zone offense and defense, CB Nate Clements, backup linebackers in coverage and much more? Check inside.

Thumbs up: The 49ers say they are going to be a power rushing team this year, and if that's the case, they certainly showed how it's done while rushing for 275 yards, pummeling the Raiders at every turn with both their first- and second-team offensive lines, and just about any running back who operated behind them. The 49ers averaged 5.9 yards a pop with Glen Coffee going for 129 yards rushing, Michael Robinson bulling his way for 97 and Kory Sheets adding 51 at the end of the game. And to think, this was with lead back Frank Gore only getting a few token carries before he went to the sidelines to stay early in the first quarter.

Thumbs up: Give kudos to all those running backs – and we have and will – but the offensive line, particularly the starting line, was phenomenal for the 49ers. Tackles Joe Staley and Adam Snyder, center Eric Heittman and right guard Chilo Rachal all had notable blocks to spring Coffee in the first half.

Thumbs down: This wasn't much of a step forward by either guy in San Francisco's quarterback competition. Alex Smith and Shaun Hill each played a quarter in the first half, and neither led the team to a touchdown, with San Francisco's running backs gaining most of the positive yardage when those two QBs were in the game. Smith was just 3 of 9 passing for 30 yards and an interception for a paltry passer rating of 4.2. Hill was 3 of 7 for 20 yards for a 50.3 rating. Coach Mike Singletary was visibly upset after the game when asked about the progress made by the two QBs.

Thumbs up: It was quite an evening of work for rookie quarterback Nate Davis, who displayed good escapability in the pocket and a nice passing touch in the third quarter while driving the 49ers 80 yards in 11 plays for their first touchdown. Davis remained in the game throughout the second half and efficiently led the offense forward as the 49ers rallied from a 14-3 deficit to take control of the game. He finished 6 of 11 for 67 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 103.2

Thumbs up: Let's hear it for the continued emergence of tight end Vernon Davis as a go-to target. Facing third-and-long to begin their first offensive series, the Niners used Davis as a release valve inside instead of having him stay in to block, like deposed offensive coordinator Mike Martz often did last year. Davis released off the line and was found by quarterback Alex Smith over the middle for 15 yards and a first down.

Thumbs up: For the quick-striking ability of Dashon Goldson, the team's new starting free safety, who closed quickly on the ball for several nice hits while the first defense was in the game, including upending tight end Tony Stewart with a shot to the lower body after a pass over the middle. Goldson had four tackles to lead the first-unit defense.

Thumbs up: Rookie running back Glen Coffee continues to impress with his breakaway ability after hitting the second level. Coffee turned the corner for big yardage several times during his first half of action and also broke a few runs up the middle. He turned the corner for gains of 16 and 18 yards, had a 15-yard burst up the middle, and his 35-yard explosion over left tackle gave Coffee 100 yards rushing before the second quarter was even halfway over. He finished with a game-high 129 yards rushing on 16 carries and is now the NFL's leading rusher during the exhibition season.

Thumbs down: The 49ers are going to need to mix it up on offense this year to be successful, but when they go to the reverse as a change of pace, they need to have it develop much more quickly than the lame attempt that lost six yards once the ball was in Arnaz Battle's hands in the second quarter. The whole offense needs to sell that play to make it work, and there were several players who didn't.

Thumbs up: Well, we'd like to put the thumbs up for other reasons with Alex Smith, but it was nice to see Smith's toughness on a couple of plays in the second quarter. First, he leveled Oakland defensive end Greg Ellis on a crackback block on a reverse. Then, after his pass went in and out of the hands of receiver Josh Morgan and was intercepted by linebacker Ricky Brown later in the quarter, Smith chased Brown down inside the 10-yard line after a 46-yard return to prevent a touchdown, going high to bring down the 235-pound Brown with a bear-hug tackle.

Thumbs up: San Francisco's defense rose to the occasion after Smith's interception with stellar play in the red zone, keeping the Raiders out of the end zone and off the scoreboard as Oakland went for it on fourth down from the 3-yard line and failed on a drive that began with a first-and-goal from the 7.

Thumbs down: The same can't be said for San Francisco's red-zone offense, which bogged down near the goal line after reaching the 1-yard line on second down. Coffee lost three yards on that play and the 49ers had to settle for a short field goal.

Thumbs down: On the one hand, it was a smart move for cornerback Nate Clements to grab onto Johnnie Lee Higgins' jersey to prevent Higgins from going by him for what likely would have been a long touchdown pass in the first quarter. On the other hand, Clements shouldn't be getting beat like that by pedestrian NFL receivers, first biting on Higgins' double move, then letting Higgins go by him. Later in the same series, on third-and-21, Clements released receiver Louis Murphy in coverage, and Murphy strolled wide open in the corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass that provided the game's first score. Even the best NFL cornerbacks are going to get beat, but Clements needs to be better than he was on those plays.

Thumbs up: Starting in place of Patrick Willis, you just have to love Jeff Ulbrich's intensity and the way he still plugs the hole after a decade playing in the NFL. The Niners are in good shape inside with Ulbrich and promising rookie Scott McKillop as the backups to starters Willis and Takeo Spikes.

Thumbs down: Sailing a kickoff out of bounds inside the two-minute warning is simply unacceptable for a veteran kicker like Joe Nedney. It allowed the Raiders to start their final drive of the second half at their own 40-yard line. Nedney didn't look so good missing badly on a 51-yard field-goal attempt, either, a kick he usually drills with ease.

Thumbs up: Not many realize that kick-returner supreme Allen Rossum also has had some success in the NFL as cornerback, but Rossum showed his nose for the football at the position when he picked off a Jeff Garcia pass deep in 49ers territory in the final minute of the second quarter to keep the Raiders from adding to their 7-3 halftime lead. Rossum is a guy the 49ers should consider using more often on defense in coverage packages.

Thumbs down: Injuries, of course, are part of the game, but with the great summer he is having and the way he has been responding as the starting right tackle, you hate to see Adam Snyder have to leave the game with an ankle and knee sprain, the kind of injury that could linger a while. Initial reports are that Snyder's injury isn't serious, but you don't want to see the progress this guy is making take even a few days off.

Thumbs up: Second-year player Reggie Smith continues to show good recognition and play-making ability in coverage. Smith had two interceptions in the preseason opener and shined again in coverage with the reserve units. He also made great penetration to grab quarterback Charlie Frye and force an incompletion on a two-point conversion attempt after Oakland's final touchdown with 3:30 remaining to preserve San Francisco's one-point lead. Then, after the the 49ers' offense went three-and-out, Smith provided the clincher by recovering an Oakland fumble on the ensuing punt with just more than two minutes to play.

Thumbs down: The entire linebacker unit bit on a play-fake by quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, allowing tight end Brandon Myers to drift wide open in the end zone and snare a short touchdown pass on third down that put the Raiders ahead 14-3 late in the third quarter. Rookie linebacker Scot McKillop also fell a step behind Myers later in coverage and failed to get his head turned around on a long completion. As was evident in the exhibition opener, the coverage of the team's backup inside linebackers needs a lot of work.

Thumbs up: That said, McKillop continues to play well and stays assignment true. McKillop was where he was supposed to be to grab an interception that was thrown right to him in Oakland territory early in the fourth quarter, a play that set up a field goal that allowed the 49ers to even the score at 14-14. McKillop finished with four tackles and has led the team or tied for the team lead in that department in both of San Francisco's preseason games.

Thumbs up: It was nice to see the ball in Delanie Walker's hands, since the play-making tight end/H back has spent most of the summer on the sideline with an injury. Walker got open late in the third quarter to snag a key pass from Nate Davis on third-and-long, then showed his open-field ability by crossing across the turf to turn the play into a 27-yard gain and keep San Francisco's first touchdown drive alive. Walker then completed the drive by getting wide open in the end zone to haul in a 1-yard scoring pass from Davis, then came back on the field to grab a two-point conversion pass form Davis.

Thumbs up: They are long, long, long shots to make the final roster, but rookie cornerbacks Jahi Word-Daniels and Carlos Thomas combined to make one of the game's biggest plays, at least as far as the final outcome was concerned. Word-Daniels reached high in the air to get his hands on an overthrown pass by Oakland's Charlie Frye, tipping it so that Thomas had a chance to flag it down for an interception. Thomas then crossed the field for a nice return to set up the 49ers for four-play, 25-yard drive to the winning touchdown.

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