Silver and Black linings: Short and sweet

Dink - dunk - move the chains. The Oakland Raiders vertical passing game has taken a hit this year and may take a further plunge as the season progresses.

  • Are the Raiders, who have long espoused the notion of taking what they want, honestly considering taking what the defense gives them?

    That's the way coach Art Shell made it sound when assessing quarterback Andrew Walter's problem areas in the loss to Cleveland.

    "He made some decisions about where to go with the ball where we probably should have gone elsewhere ... and taking advantage of the moment that was there ... you don't need to go to the deep ball right away, go ahead and take advantage of what's underneath," Shell said.

    Said Walter: "I remember one in particular when I could have worked an underneath route, got a completion. I don't know how many times that was the case. Certainly there were a couple when I could have done that. We need to get the backs out there to feel great about finding the checkdown."

    The Raiders have only two completions to running backs, both to LaMont Jordan on passes that were awkward forward flips by Walter to escape trouble.

  • Aaron Brooks, who had never missed a game due to injury in his eight-year career, is getting restless during practice.

    "I keep telling the trainers all the time I don't know what to do," Brooks said. "I'm always checking in, asking. I try not to be a distraction. All I can do is give Andrew some words of encouragement and let him do his thing."

  • Cleveland was able to gouge what had been some solid Raiders kick coverage teams by concentrating on special teams captain Jarrod Cooper and linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba.

    "Me and Coop got double-teamed on the kickoffs," Ekejiuba said. "I know he got doubled, I got doubled and they ran the return t our side. They schemed us really well. And the return they ran I felt we really worked hard on all week."

  • Cooper was still confused about a blow that leveled Cleveland punt returner Dennis Northcutt in which he received a 15-yard penalty for not giving the returner room to make the catch.

    Cooper and the ball arrived at nearly the same instant, with Cooper possibly blasting Northcutt a split-second before the ball arrived.

    "I'm not sure how illegal it was since not one referee could tell me what the rule was on the hit," Cooper said. "One of them told me I didn't let the guy fair catch the ball. You call for a fair catch way before the ball gets there. Another one told me he didn't know what was wrong. Another one told me to let him catch it and make a move first, which I've never heard of. I still don't know what the rule is."

    Shell, in a remarkable departure from Raider policy, agreed with the officials.

    "Having been with the competition committee and understand the rules pretty good, you have to give the guy an opportunity to catch the ball," Shell said. "It was, 'bang.' It wasn't, 'Bang, bang.' The official thought about it and threw the flag. I told Cooper on the sidelines, 'Great play but you were a split-second too early."

  • "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.
  • Respect is something that is earned in the NFL, and the 49ers have a long way to go in that regard.

    Never was that more apparent than in the team's 38-24 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 24. Coach Mike Nolan was told by NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira that the game officials made mistakes on at least three calls, resulting in 207 second-half yards, including a touchdown.

    When asked what he heard from the league about the calls, Nolan asked the team's public-relations director what he could say. He was told he wasn't allowed to speak about the conversation with Pereira.

    "We make mistakes on our own, as well. It's not somebody else's fault that we lost. That's our fault," Nolan said.

    But a source said the league admitted the incorrect calls were made on at least three critical plays, including Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson's 98-yard touchdown return in the third quarter. Patterson should have been ruled down by contact after his recovery at the Eagles' 2-yard line.

    Also, a 60-yard pass to Eagles tight end Matt Schobel should not have counted because of an illegal pick that allowed Schobel to get open. That play led to a touchdown. And 49ers receiver Antonio Bryant's 49-yard reception to the Eagles' 8-yard line was nullified when running back Michael Robinson was called for an illegal chop block. However, the league determined that Robinson did not commit an illegal block after all.

  • The 49ers' most outspoken and emotional player has put a muzzle on himself because he said he does not want to be the focus of negative attention.

    "I may say one thing for a particular reason but I have to take into account that other people might not take it that way," WR Antonio Bryant said. "So I don't have anything to say. The only thing I'm going to do is play football."

    When asked if this might take away from the emotion that makes him such a good player, Young said he will still play with the same fire.

    "It's not about being emotional," Bryant said. "Like I told coach, you don't have to worry about me being motivated. I'm not one of the people you have to motivate. I'm one of the people you have to calm down. As we go through the week, I'm not working on getting motivated. I'm working on calming down. I'll already be excited. I was born excited."

    Bryant promised no more emotional outbursts during games. He was accused of "showing up" quarterback Alex Smith with some of his body language in the 49ers' first two games of the season. In the 49ers' 41-0 loss to the Chiefs, Bryant was a model citizen.

    "There were plenty of opportunities for me to go crazy and go off. But it wouldn't change the outcome," Bryant said. "Definitely, if I would've said something or reacted in a certain way people would try to blow that up and the attention wouldn't have been on us getting our (rear ends) kicked 41-0. The attention would've been on Antonio Bryant showing Alex up or Antonio is doing this or that. That's what would've been the headline and the stories."

  • Thirteen-year veteran Bryant Young is still the 49ers' best defensive lineman. Young is playing the final season of a five-year, $25 million contract, and the club would love to bring him back next season. However, the 49ers do not plan to negotiate during the season with Young.

    "That's something that's going to be on his terms," Nolan said. "Believe me, I think the world of B.Y. I think whatever he does is going to be on his terms."


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