Offense a no-show against 49ers

The starting offense still hasn't scored a single point, their place-kicker has made just one of five field goal attempts, and their pass protection has been about as solid as California governor Gray Davis' political standing. Preseason kinks or reasons for the Oakland Raiders to be concerned? A little bit of both, as Thursday's 14-10 to the San Francisco 49ers proved.<BR><BR>

Not to be worried, however, or so say the Raiders. After all, what happens in August essentially has no bearing on what happens come December when the NFL playoff race heats up.

''We run into this problem every year in the preseason,'' said right tackle Lincoln Kennedy. ''When you don't get into a rhythm, people begin to wonder if you're going to get into a rhythm in the regular season. There are a number of factors in the preseason but you never push the panic button.''

Maybe not the panic button but the one labeled mildly concerned might be a good option.

This is a team, remember, that led the entire NFL in total offense and was second in points scored. Yet in the two sleep-inducing preseason games the Raiders have managed all of 17 points, all of which have come with the back-ups in the game.

In three series with Rich Gannon at quarterback, Oakland's offense managed all of 61 yards and four first downs. The Raiders crossed midfield just once, that drive ending miserably when Sebastian Janikowski's 48-yard field goal attempt missed badly to the left.

Janikowski, the leading scorer in the AFC a year ago, later shanked a 38-yard kick left as well. He did come back to connect from 45 yards out to give Oakland a brief 10-7 lead, but coupled with his two misses against the Rams, Janikowski is now just 1-for-5 in the preseason. ''He's been rushing a little,'' said Callahan. ''We need to slow him down and get him back into game rhythm.''

The pass protection for Gannon on the Raiders' opening two series was shaky at best. Left tackle Barry Sims was beaten by San Francisco defensive end Andre Carter, who drilled Gannon both times, while 49ers' linebacker Jamie Winborn blew past Tyrone Wheatley to drop Gannon for one of two sacks Oakland surrendered in the first half.

The second sack came with back-up quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo running the offense and led directly to the only points scored in the first half.

Linebacker Julian Peterson, who had been blowing past Sims all night, looped around on a stunt and zipped past Sims who had picked up the inside rush of defensive end Sean Moran. Peterson raced in unimpeded and blasted Tuiasosopo, jarring the ball loose in the process.

San Francisco recovered on the Raiders' 10-yard line and one play later Brandon Doman connected with wide receiver Cedrick Wilson for a short touchdown completion.

''What happens in the preseason games (is) you don't have time to find your rhythm, and if you don't then it's, 'Oh no, we're out of rhythm,' '' said Callahan. ''It's hard to get going into a rhythm until you play (the starters) a full game.''

To blame all of the offense's struggles on the line, however, would be unfair and off the mark. Gannon had throws that were off mark or dropped, there were missed blocks and a plethora of penalties -- 15 in all for 114 yards.

One of the few things that did go right for Oakland was the running of Justin Fargas. Fargas, whose 72-yard effort against the Rams a week earlier was marred by a fumble near the end zone, spent the first 35 of Thursday's game against San Francisco on the sidelines. When he did get into the game with Oakland's second-string unit, the rookie running back showed why the Raiders are so high on him.

In the final 10 minutes of the third quarter alone, Fargas carried the ball 12 times for 80 yards and one touchdown. He finished the game with 126 yards, a 7.0 yards-per-carry average and the possibility of playing with the starting offense next week.

''That is a possibility,'' said Raiders head coach Bill Callahan. ''That's back-to-back games now that he's really given us a spark, a lift off the bench.''

Oakland's first-team defense also played well, shutting down Terrell Owens and company, though the 49ers were minus starting quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Garcia's replacement, Tom Rattay, was a tackling dummy for Tyler Brayton, Kenyon Coleman, Trace Armstrong and John Parrella, all of whom leveled Ratty with helmet-ringing tackles.

Barret Robbins, the team's deposed center, played in his first game of any kind since being suspended for Super Bowl XXXVII by Callahan. Robbins entered the game midway through the second quarter and played the remainder of the half before giving way to Matt Stinchcomb the rest of the game.

''Seemingly he fit in,'' said Callahan. ''He made some good calls and I thought he was back in his natural form in that respect.''


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