<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Sports News, Sports Teams, and Scores for the Sharks, 49ers, Raiders,Giants, Bears and More]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:04:23 -0800 Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:04:23 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Battered, Struggling 49ers Will Try to Rebound]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:21:07 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/176*120/ckversuschar.jpg

Early in the season, it appeared Saturday’s matchup between the 49ers and Chargers would be a big game for both teams.

The 49ers were among the favorites in the NFC, and a late-season game against the Chargers – who started fast this season – looked juicy. In fact, the game was moved from its afternoon slot to night (5:25 p.m.) in anticipation of something special.

It remains an important game for San Diego (8-6), which must win this game and next week’s (plus get some help) to reach the postseason.

But for the 49ers – a team crippled by injuries, disappointing performances and the black cloud of head coach Jim Harbaugh being an apparent lame duck – this is just another step toward getting this awful season over.

As Dave Blezow of the New York Post wrote this week about this matchup: “The Niners have lost three in a row … and have scored 23 points in those games. Colin Kaepernick has had 121, 174 and 141 yards passing. This team already has quit on Jim Harbaugh.”

Oddsmakers still have the 49ers posted as 2½-point favorites, but that seems a mirage based on how San Francisco has spiraled into the tank in recent weeks.

Kaepernick has been inconsistent and ineffective, the passing game hasn’t challenged defenses with the deep ball, the offensive line has continued to allow Kaepernick to be pressured and sacked and the defense goes into this game for the first time without defensive end Ray McDonald, released this week after a series of off-field incidents.

In addition, the Niners defense also is expected to be without its top two cornerbacks in Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver and standout rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland. Plus, rookie outside linebacker Aaron Lynch may not play because of a dislocated thumb, and the Niners are down to a hobbling Quinton Dial (battling through a knee injury) at nose tackle following season-ending injuries to Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey.

That’s not a good situation for San Francisco, which will face a still-dangerous passing attack from the Chargers (No. 12 in the league). Quarterback Philip Rivers is fighting through an injury that forced him to miss a practice this week, and top receiver Keenan Allen (the former Cal standout) is now out for the season.  But Rivers has had success vs. the 49ers before, passing for 273 yards and three TDs in their last meeting in 2010.

A key matchup: 49ers backup linebacker Nick Moody – who struggled in his debut last week vs. Seattle after Borland was hurt – vs. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. This could be a mismatch that causes the Niners problems all game long.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Face Tough Buffalo Defense Sunday]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:18:07 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/dkcarrvsbuff.jpg

Throughout their long histories, the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills – former members of the American Football League – have played 38 times, with the series even at 19 victories apiece.

When these teams meet Sunday afternoon at O.co Coliseum, however, the Bills are the decided favorites. Oddsmakers have made the Raiders 5½-point underdogs.

The Bills have been hot, winning three of their past four games to improve to 8-6 and keep alive their hopes for the playoffs. If they can beat the Raiders Sunday and the Patriots in the regular-season finale, they have a chance.

The Raiders, of course, have nothing tangible to play for. At 2-12, they’ve won two of their past four games, but they’re coming off a 31-13 loss to the Chiefs, have been torn apart by injuries and rank 32nd in the NFL in total offense and rushing offense. Plus, the Raider will be going against a defense that has been formidable in recent weeks. The Bills rank No. 5 in the NFL in total defense and are also the fifth-best pass defense in the league.

This is what Raiders quarterback Derek Carr faces: a pass defense that in its past two games vs. two of the NFL’s top QBs, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, gave up zero touchdown throws and collected four interceptions.

In addition, the Bills’ D features defensive end Mario Williams, who has 13 sacks.

But Raiders head coach Tony Sparano has faith in his rookie quarterback, and believes Carr is up to the task. He’s not worried about how the Bills fared against Manning and Rodgers.

“I’m not concerned with what other people did,” Sparano told the media this week. “Just concerned more importantly with how we’re going to approach it. But Derek, he’s a young quarterback and I get it playing against a good defense. But he’s played against a bunch of good defenses right now in a row and he’s had some successes against some of those defenses. I’m comfortable with where Derek is right now. We understand the challenge we have.”

Carr, the only rookie to start every game at quarterback this season, needs just 102 passing yards to reach 3,000 for the season.

On defense, meanwhile, the Raiders will be tested by a balanced offense that has been much better under veteran QB Kyle Orton, who took over this year for young E.J. Manuel. Orton has a fine receiver in Sammy Watkins and a strong running game led by veteran Fred Jackson.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners' Once-Deep Running Back Corps Depleted]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:52:23 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/190*120/aylsmythe.jpg

With two games still to play, the 49ers are in bad shape.

At 7-7, their playoff hopes are dead. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is reported to be on his way out. They’ve just released starting defensive end Ray McDonald. And star players such as NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Daniel Kilgore, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Tramaine Brock and Anthony Davis have missed all or a big chunk of this season.

As the 49ers head into Saturday night’s game vs. the San Diego Chargers at Levi’s Stadium, it’s looking like top running backs Frank Gore (concussion) and Carlos Hyde (knee) will miss the game because of injuries suffered in the loss to the Seahawks last weekend.

So, when quarterback Colin Kaepernick hands the ball off against the Chargers defense, Alfonso Smith and Phillip Tanner will likely be the ones taking it.

It’s a far cry from training camp, when the 49ers backfield seemed so deep and talented with Gore, Hyde, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore (who was expected to be ready by midseason).

Now, it’s Smith and Tanner.

Smith was in on 13 snaps against the Seahawks and had four carries for 6 yards. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder from Kentucky is in his fifth season in the NFL, having played for the Arizona Cardinals from 2010-2013, mostly as a reserve and special teamer. His best season was in 2011 when he had 30 carries for 102 yards, three catches for 21 and scored a TD.

Tanner, meanwhile, was signed by the 49ers Wednesday. He had been with the Buffalo Bills for a while earlier this season but was released in November.

An undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State in 2011, Tanner played three season with the Dallas Cowboys as a reserve and special teams player. In three seasons he played 39 games, had 56 carries and gained 149 yards with two TDs.

With Gore not yet cleared by the NFL’s concussion protocol and Hyde saying that “barring a miracle” he also will be out, it looks like 49ers fans will be seeing quite a bit of Smith and Tanner vs. the Chargers.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Game Sunday Features Two of NFL's Best Rookies]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:55:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/162*120/macktaktak.jpg

Sunday’s game between the Raiders and Bills at O.co Coliseum will give fans a look at two of the NFL’s best rookies.

Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack and Bills’ wide receiver Sammy Watkins have been everything they were supposed to be coming out of college. And each easily could be playing for the opposite side Sunday afternoon (1:25 p.m. kickoff).

The Bills, originally picking ninth, made a big move up to fourth to take Watkins, a player many thought would fall to the Raiders at No. 5 – especially since Mack was an All-America at Buffalo, and the Bills certainly knew all about him.

With Watkins off the board, the Raiders then selected Mack.

As the Raiders and Bills get set to play on the next-to-last weekend of the 2014 regular season, both are happy the way things turned out. 

The one plus for the Raiders is, they didn’t have to pay heavily for the right to select Mack. They earned their No. 5 selection with a 4-12 record. The Bills, meanwhile, traded their No. 9 slot to the Browns – along with their No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the 2015 draft – to get Watkins.

Watkins, a 6-foot-1 speedster with terrific hands, has caught 59 passes in 14 games for 850 yards, a 14.4-yard average and five touchdowns.

Mack, a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, has been in on 68 tackles in 14 games with three sacks, three passes defensed and leads the NFL in stuff plays (12) – one-on-one situations in which he’s stopped a runner cold at the line of scrimmage or for a loss. He also ranks among league leaders in quarterback pressures, QB hurries and QB hits.

Though the Raiders desperately need a big-play wide receiver such as Watkins – especially now that rookie quarterback Derek Carr is developing into a possible franchise passer – Mack gives the franchise an anchor player on defense to build around.

When NFL.com’s Marc Sessler selected his All-Rookie team at the midpoint of this season, both Mack and Watkins were on it.

In this instance, both the Raiders and Bills scored big, and fans will get an opportunity to see both on Sunday.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[U.S. to Bid for 2024 Olympics]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 01:15:47 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/TLMD-aros-olimpicos-juegos-olimpicos-olympic-rings-getty-images-470969827.jpg

The U.S. Olympic Committee has decided to bid for the 2024 Olympics, hoping to bring the Summer Games back to America after a 28-year absence.

The USOC board heard presentations from four candidate cities Tuesday — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington — and voted to enter a field that already includes Rome and either Hamburg or Berlin, with Paris likely to join.

A decision on which city the U.S. will put forward for a bid is expected next month.

The United States hasn't hosted a Summer Games since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

The country's last two tries have been flops, with New York (2012) and Chicago (2016) each finishing fourth in voting. The USOC chose not to bid for the 2020 Games, which will take place in Tokyo.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Fans May be Seeing the Last of Frank Gore]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 09:52:16 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/196*120/goreovermaybe.jpg

Frank Gore has spent 10 seasons in a 49ers uniform, but it’s possible that this could be his last.

After 146 games, nearly 2,400 carries, almost 11,000 yards and 63 rushing touchdowns, No. 21 could be playing for someone else in 2015.

Gore, in the last year of his contract, remains a solid running back at age 31, still capable of being an impact player. This season he’s rushed for 804 yards in 14 games and has two 100-yard-plus performances this season.

Yet Gore suffered a concussion in this past Sunday’s loss at Seattle and hasn’t yet been cleared for this Saturday’s game against the Chargers. Head coach Jim Harbaugh told the media Monday that Gore was “feeling good, as good as can be expected,” and he was hopeful that his running back will be able to play Saturday.

Yet whether Gore can play this Saturday or in the season finale Dec. 28 vs. the Arizona Cardinals, it’s seeming more and more unlikely that Gore will return for 2015 in San Francisco.

The Niners are poised for the start of a new era under a new head coach, and players such as Gore, defensive end Justin Smith, guard Mike Iupati and wide receiver Michael Crabtree – players at or near the end of their contracts – could be gone.

The 49ers have a young running back in Carlos Hyde who’s shown he can be very effective. Come this weekend or next, 49ers fans may want to take the time to appreciate seeing Gore wear these team colors for the last time at Levi's Stadium.

Right guard Alex Boone this week said that even though the team’s playoff hopes were killed by the loss to Seattle this past weekend, there is much to play for over the final two games.

“Make a statement,” he told reporters. “Come out and just forget everything, just play football. You’re playing with some of the greatest guys ever. Frank Gore, Justin Smith. These are guys that probably aren’t going to be here next year. You fight for them. You’re proud to go out there with them and fight as hard as they do.”

For Gore, this has been a frustrating season. After three straight seasons of more than 1,100 yards rushing, the yards – and the victories – have been much harder to come by. Gore remains in excellent shape and is still a team leader, a fine blocker and tough, inside runner.

If this is his last two weeks in a 49ers uniform, he’ll continue to give it his best.

Said Gore recently: “I’ll keep fighting with my teammates. I’m going to give my teammates 110 percent.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sparano Knows His Time is Almost Over]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 08:33:48 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/sparanotime.jpg

When Tony Sparano was asked recently about his future as head coach of the Raiders, he said: “It’s a question for somebody else. It’s not a question for me.”

Almost certainly, Sparano will be gone after this season.

Raiders owner Mark Davis has indicated that big changes are in store for the franchise after this season, and those changes will include a new head coach – probably one with a big name and a pedigree – and a new general manager.

Davis has been more patient than his father ever was, but he has his limits. And a third straight year in the NFL cellar is his limit.

After the Raiders fired head coach Dennis Allen early this season, Sparano was handed the job on an interim basis. At the time, it probably didn’t matter whether he won the remaining 12 games or lost them all. “Interim” was the key word in his title.

Yet the Raiders – usually outmanned in every game – have played hard for Sparano and the players have said they like playing for the longtime NFL assistant and head coach. The Raiders may be 2-8 under his leadership and headed for perhaps a 2-14 season, but young and old players alike this season have praised Sparano for coming into a tough situation, keeping things positive, holding players accountable and being a total professional.

Some, in fact, say they would love to continue to play for Sparano.

“Tony’s done a great job and everybody in the locker room loves his approach,” second-year running back Latavius Murray told reporters this week. “I feel he’s definitely a players’ coach and we all love playing for him. We’ve been coming up short on some games, but that definitely doesn’t change the mentality we have each week going forward.”

Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack said recently that, under Sparano, the Raiders have maintained a positive attitude. Even though their season is lost, the Raiders have pulled off upsets over the Chiefs and 49ers in recent weeks.

“This team, it has a solid foundation,” Mack said. “We have some great leaders and we’re going to keep putting the pedal to the metal and come in every week and give it our all. That doesn’t stop.”

Sparano, meanwhile, knows this job isn’t his to keep, and he continues to be a pro, giving all of his attention to the work each week.

This week, it’s getting ready for the Buffalo Bills. Next week it will be the Denver Broncos.

“Listen, I am 100 percent a glass half-full guy,” Sparano said Monday. “I’m only worried about, honestly, the Buffalo Bills right now. … I can only control the things I can control.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Borland Hopes to be Ready for Chargers]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 09:45:04 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/krbohrlynd.jpg

The 49ers took a beating not only on the scoreboard Sunday in Seattle, but also to their health.

The Niners – who went into the game already missing their starting center, right tackle and cornerback – also lost (at some point) running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde, tight end Garrett Celek and linebackers Michael Wilhoite, Chris Borland and Ahmad Brooks.

With two games remaining – Saturday vs. the Chargers and Dec. 28 vs. the Cardinals – San Francisco is a wounded team.

The loss of Borland Sunday was particularly damaging.

The inside linebacker has been a tackling machine since taking over for the injured Patrick Willis. In the six games leading into Sunday’s game at Seattle, Borland had at least 10 tackles in five of them and exceeded 16 in three of them.

He’s been active, aggressive and smart while helping the 49ers make up for the absence of Willis, a perennial Pro Bowler.

But on Sunday, Borland injured his ankle on the final play of the first half. He wasn’t able to return, and his absence was felt.

The Seahawks’ rushing game – held in check the first half – was very effective over the final two quarters when Seattle pulled away for the win. As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, Seattle had 105 of its 152 rushing yards when Borland was on the sideline.

Nick Moody, who replaced Borland, hadn’t played a snap on defense this season and the Seahawks took advantage of him.

“I don’t know the other guy that came in,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the game. “I don’t know how much he’s been playing – I haven’t seen him much. Borland’s been playing great football. We knew that he was out and that just added to the fact that we were going to run the football anyway. He is such a good player that he makes a difference.”

With a short week to get ready for the Chargers Saturday night, Borland will have to make a fast recovery. He says he’ll be ready. The 49ers certainly will need him.

“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Borland said of his ankle injury. “I’ll be back next week.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Murray Looking More and More Like a No. 1 Running Back]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 09:44:30 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/188*120/latmuhrvskc.jpg

At 2-12, there is much to fix on the Oakland Raiders.

This offseason, they’ll add a head coach, some wide receiver help and add some much-needed talent to the secondary. Those are at the top of a long list. But when the draft and free agency period begin, it’s become apparent that the team won’t have to seek out a No. 1 running back.

After just three games with extensive action, Latavius Murray is showing he can be a featured running back in the NFL.

On Sunday, in a loss at Kansas City, the second-year pro earned his first NFL start and picked up 59 yards on 12 carries, a 4.9-yard average. One of those carries was a 25-yard burst in the first quarter, giving him three runs of 20-plus yards in his most recent four games. In a victory over the 49ers last week, Murray gained 76 yards to help the Raiders put together some effective drives. In the previous game against the Chiefs on Nov. 20 – his professional breakout – he had a 90-yard run and picked up 112 yards on just four carries early before leaving with an injury.

At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Murray is showing he has both the power and force to run inside and the burst to break through for bigger gains. The Raiders certainly will bring in some other backs this offseason for depth – Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew haven’t earned another season in Oakland – but Murray has proved in just a few games that he can gain yards.

He’s also caught four passes over his past two games and blocked well.

Though Murray looked very good in the preseason, once the regular season began he became an afterthought, with McFadden and Jones-Drew getting the bulk of work.

But since Murray picked up some good yardage in a late-game audition vs. the Chargers on Nov. 16, interim head coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen have made Murray the team’s No. 1 back.

On Sunday, he got his first start. And he’s confident it won’t be his last.

“I know if I run the way I can run, I know I’ll be fine,” Murray told Marcus Thompson III of the Bay Area News Group.

He’ll get his next chance this Sunday at O.co Coliseum vs. the Buffalo Bills.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Surpasses Jordan]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 02:53:06 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/Kobe-Bryant-passes-Jordan-points_12-14-14.jpg

On Sunday evening in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kobe Bryant further cemented his place in basketball lore by becoming the third greatest scorer in NBA history.

Bryant passed Michael Jordan's total of 32,292 points in the first half of Sunday's game at Target Center. Only needing nine points on the day, most expected Bryant would surpass the required total before halftime, and Bryant did not disappoint.

Though Bryant missed his first three shots and the Minnesota Timberwolves were consistently putting a hard double team on the Lakers' star, the 19-year veteran began to slowly solve the defensive riddle.

After eight scoreless minutes on Sunday, Bryant's first two points on the night came from the foul line. By the time the first quarter ended, Bryant had four points on five shots, but he did not appear to be in any particular hurry to pass no. 23 on the all-time scoring list.

Instead, Bryant was happy to chaperon the Lakers to a three point lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, Bryant would return from his rest and immediately launch a three-pointer. Bryant took the ball on a turnaround jump shot to pass Jordan, but the ball went in and out. On the next possession, Bryant would head to the free throw line and sink two free throws.

Bryant moved to third all-time on the NBA scoring list, and Jordan dropped to fourth.

The game was momentarily halted as Bryant received hugs and congratulations from his teammates. The Timberwolves' PA announcer congratulated the 36-year-old and the fans in attendance applauded in appreciation. For a night, Minnesota felt like the home of the Lakers again.

With Jordan out of the way, Bryant is still a long way behind Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Malone's total of 36,928 points and Abdul-Jabbar's total of 38,387 points would likely require Bryant to play past the summer of 2016, when Bryant's current contract is set to retire.

On Sunday in Minneapolis, no. 24 passed no. 23 on the all-time scoring list, as Bryant further solidified his case for being the greatest Laker of all time in the city where the Lakers were born.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners' Playoff Hopes Officially Squashed in Seattle]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 16:48:41 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/LychnMinSeavSF.jpg

The 49ers went into Sunday’s game in Seattle knowing they had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

A season that began with such high hopes had sputtered and was almost dead, with San Francisco at 7-6 with three must-win games left. It seemed everything that could have gone wrong, had gone wrong in 2014.

“We’ve had ups and downs,” veteran running back Frank Gore said this week. “The games we should have won, we didn’t take control of.”

And on Sunday, the 49ers again couldn’t solve the Seahawks in Seattle, falling 17-7. It marked the fourth straight loss for the 49ers in the Pacific Northwest and it officially put an end to the 49ers’ playoff hopes – and most likely the Jim Harbaugh era. The loss, combined with the Lions’ victory over the Vikings, officially buries San Francisco’s postseason chances.

Now 7-7, the 49ers have just two games remaining, against the Chargers and Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium, and the only thing on the line will be whether they can finish with a fourth straight winning record under Harbaugh.

On Sunday, the 49ers defense again played well enough to win, despite even more injuries (to inside linebackers Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland).

The offense – as it has been for most of this season -- was the culprit.

San Francisco had some success with its ground game, rushing for 140 yards and a 4.4 average, with Carlos Hyde (six carries for 55) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (nine for 46) doing some damage. But both Hyde and Gore (11 carries, 29 yards) were knocked from the game, and the San Francisco passing game couldn’t efficiently attack the Seattle defense – just as in a loss to Seattle on Thanksgiving at Levi’s Stadium.

Kaepernick was 11-of-19 for 141 yards and was sacked six times.

Seattle took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but a 10-yard touchdown run by Gore in the second gave San Francisco a halftime lead. The Niners offense stalled often in the third and fourth quarters as Seattle scored twice, on a Marshawn Lynch 4-yard run and a 10-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Paul Richardson.

For the 49ers, winning this season has been difficult. And winning in Seattle has been nearly impossible – just as it has been for the entire NFL.

Over the past three seasons now, the Seahawks are 21-2 at CenturyLink Field.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 15]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 20:22:57 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/460466000.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the fifteenth week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Doomed by Bad Third Quarter vs. Chiefs]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 14:25:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/171*120/kniletdvoakkk.jpg

The Raiders have been up and down like a bobbing kite the past few weeks, and all the action hasn’t just been on the field.

Sunday’s 31-13 loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City dropped the Raiders to 2-12 and kept them on a win-lose-win-lose cycle over the past month. The Raiders had hoped to pull off a second straight win over the Chiefs this season, but a 21-3 Kansas City spree in the third quarter after K.C. held just a 10-3 halftime edge put an end to those dreams.

Last week’s off-the-field drama involved a win over the cross-Bay 49ers and the possibility that Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh may be courted by Raiders owner Mark Davis this offseason. This time, general manager Reggie McKenzie was the focus.

Even before the Raiders took the field at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Davis will likely fire McKenzie after this season. Tweeted Schefter: “Oakland preparing for sweeping changes that involve its GM Reggie McKenzie, according to league sources. Mark Davis getting ready to spend.”

It was thought earlier this season that McKenzie’s job might be safe, after a 2014 draft class that has been one of the NFL’s best, including quarterback Derek Carr, outside linebacker Khalil Mack, guard Gabe Jackson and return man-cornerback TJ Carrie.

But with just two games remaining, Schefter’s report seems to indicate that Davis may be leaning toward spending to bring in a big-name head coach who would want plenty of say in personnel decisions.

So, though McKenzie did well in the draft, it may not be enough to save his job. Media speculation following Schefter’s report again focused on Harbaugh – whose days with the 49ers seem numbered – or former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Both, no doubt, would want plenty of control.

No matter who comes in, he’ll have all the challenges he can handle, as evidenced by Oakland’s 12th loss.

The Raiders were in the game until the third quarter, when everything fell apart.

A fumble by the Chiefs gave the Raiders a golden opportunity at the K.C. 15, but the Raiders offense went backwards instead of forwards and had to settle for a field goal. That closed the gap to 10-6.

In quick order, the Chiefs then: 1) marched 70 yards for a TD; 2) scored another TD after a Carr fumble; 3) added a third TD on a 70-yard pass and run to running back Knile Davis, when the Raiders were caught in a blitz on the short pass and linebacker Miles Burris fell down.

Just like that, it was game over.

The Raiders now have just two games remaining, against Buffalo at O.co Coliseum this coming Sunday and the season finale at Denver on Dec. 28. What happens off the field in those two weeks – and shortly after – is likely to be much more significant to Raiders fans than the totals on the scoreboard.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles' McCoy on Playing Sunday Night]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 12:12:02 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP383450712423.jpg Philadelphia Eagles' star running back, LeSean McCoy, ran for 159 yards and a touchdown in a convincing win against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. McCoy looks to continue that trend against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, where he always seems to come though for the Eagles.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Burden is on 49ers Offense in Seattle Sunday]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 08:56:16 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/171*120/Gohrvhawkzzz.jpg

In the five previous times Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers have lost two straight games since he took over in 2011, they’ve bounced back with victories.

To do that Sunday in Seattle – where the Seahawks are 10-point favorites – is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles the Niners have faced in his tenure.

The 9-4 Seahawks are on a roll and have a huge advantage with this game at CenturyLink Field. The 7-6 49ers need to win this game Sunday afternoon (1:25 p.m. kickoff) and then their final two vs. the Chargers and Cardinals to have any hope of slipping into a wild-card spot.

To win in Seattle, however, will mean the 49ers offense needs to come alive.

In the first meeting of these teams, a 19-3 Seattle victory, the 49ers defense essentially did its part, giving up just one touchdown.

But the 49ers offense was horrible, passing for just 121 yards and rushing for only 64.

It’s been a second-half collapse for this offense.

Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the offensive coaching staff and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have to come up with some new way of operating Sunday against the Seahawks, because the old way isn’t working. USA Today’s Lindsay H. Jones wrote this week that, “The 49ers offense hasn’t just grown stagnant, but it has regressed.”

She cited the career highs for Kaepernick in interceptions (10) and sacks (43) as well as career lows in yards per pass attempt (7.1) and yards per rush (4.7).

The 49ers no longer are setting up designed running plays for Kaepernick. Tight end Vernon Davis – one of the team’s best weapons -- isn’t being utilized much at all. The offensive line hasn’t consistently opened holes for running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. And in games against the Seahawks, it appears Seattle has been prepared for almost every play the 49ers have thrown at them.

The 49ers have fallen so fast this season that some of the steam seems to have leaked from what was perhaps the best rivalry in the NFL over the past three seasons. A headline in the Seattle Times this week put it this way: “Seahawks vs. 49ers: A dimming rivalry?”

Sunday’s outcome will depend on the 49ers offense. The defense has shown it can match up with Seattle, for the most part. But for San Francisco to win, it’s going to have to score and put together long drives.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times this week dissected the 49ers’ offensive woes and called the offensive scheme “vanilla.”

“Things haven’t been right for us,” Gore told reporters this week. “It’s just been a different year for us.”

To keep alive any hopes for the postseason, that must change Sunday.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[First Priority for Raiders: Third-Down Efficiency vs. Chiefs]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 08:50:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/Oakthirddowyns.jpg

In the first matchup between the Raiders and Chiefs this season, the Oakland defense was terrific on third downs in a 24-20 victory.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and his teammates could convert just 2-of-14 third-down attempts and also were 0-for-1 on fourth down.

On their first two possessions of the game, in fact, the Raiders' D set the tone, stopping K.C. on three-and-outs while the Oakland offense put together a touchdown march of its own that ended with Latavius Murray’s 11-yard run. The Raiders were able to take a 7-0 first-quarter lead en route to their first victory of the season.

Now, with the teams scheduled to meet again this Sunday in Kansas City (10 a.m. kickoff in the Bay Area), how the Chiefs and Raiders perform on third downs will be one of the keys to the outcome.

Because while the Chiefs were struggling, the Raiders were converting 8-of-16 third-down plays and were 1-for-1 on fourth down.

Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton this week talked about a much-better Raiders offense of late with quarterback Derek Carr, running back Latavius Murray and tight end Mychal Rivera, and now important it will be for the Chiefs to keep the Raiders from putting together long drives. That will mean performing well on third downs.

“They do a good job on third down, so I think one of our challenges is when we get them to third down, we have to win those,” Sutton told a writer for the Chiefs website. “We can enhance our opportunity by playing really good on first and second and making those (third downs) as long a yardage situation as possible.”

On the Raiders’ first scoring drive vs. the Chiefs in that first meeting, the Raiders converted two key third-down plays. On a third-and-7 at the Chiefs 38, Carr hit James Jones for 11 yards and a first down. On third-and-4 from the Chiefs 21, Carr connected with Brice Butler for 10 yards, just one play before Murray broke free for his touchdown run.

Then, late in the game, the Raiders put together an 80-yard drive – with the game on the line – converting two third-down attempts and one fourth-down play.

Lately, the Raiders’ third-down efficiency on both sides of the ball has been strong. In last week’s Oakland victory over the 49ers, Carr & Co. converted 6-of-13 third-down plays. On defense, the Raiders held San Francisco to just 3-of-11 third-down conversions.

Though there will be many factors that determine Sunday’s outcome – the Chiefs’ strong home-field advantage and desire to make up for the first loss, the return of linebacker Joe Mays to the K.C. defense and how well Oakland can check Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs’ ground attack – the teams’ performance on third downs early in the game could signal which way this game will go.

Oddsmakers believe that this time, the outcome will be different. The Chiefs are favored by 10 to 10 ½ points.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Picture Looks Bleak for 49ers in Seattle]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 08:39:21 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/161*120/harveeseateam.jpg

The 49ers look lost, and they’re presumed dead.

They’ve lost two games in a row and now have to face the Seahawks in Seattle, a place where they’ve been pummeled in recent meetings.

San Francisco hasn’t lost three games in a row since Jim Harbaugh became head coach in 2011, but right now a victory Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field would seem miraculous.

The Niners are 10-point underdogs, struggling to find an offensive rhythm and trying to overcome key injuries on defense and will have to beat a team that dominated them in a Thanksgiving night game at Levi’s Stadium.

Yet this week, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he expects the 49ers to play very aggressively on Sunday. He would expect nothing less from a Harbaugh-coached team.

“That’s why they’re so dangerous coming in right now, because of his leadership and toughness about the way he runs his program,” Carroll told reporters this week.

The 49ers have lost three straight in Seattle, and desperately need to break that streak to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. At 7-6, the Niners need to beat Seattle, San Diego and Arizona to get to 10-6, and then hope they get plenty of help in order to earn a wild-card berth.

But it all starts with the matchup Sunday vs. the Seahawks, a team with a defense that has given quarterback Colin Kaepernick fits, especially in Seattle. Kaepernick has had his worst games as a pro against the Seahawks and will need to have a breakout game Sunday in a hostile environment – a seemingly improbable outcome right now.

Kaepernick is 1-4 vs. Seattle in his career with just three TD passes vs. nine interceptions.

He has a 23-8 record against the rest of the league.

Yet this week Kaepernick sounded upbeat about Sunday’s game, and says he feels more comfortable about playing in CenturyLink. He and the 49ers have studied film from their most recent two losses to Seattle – including January’s NFC Championship Game defeat -- and know what needs to be done.

“That game and the game we played Thanksgiving are two games we look at and we try and take everything we can from those and see if we can attack them a different way to go out and try and get this win,” Kaepernick said. “It is a different atmosphere (in Seattle), but I feel like it’s like anything you do: the more you do it, the more you’re there, the more comfortable you get with it. So when we get up there, this offense should be fully prepared for what to expect.”

What everyone realistically expects right now is for the Seahawks – who’ve been on a roll -- to dominate. Until Kaepernick and Co. can show otherwise, this Sunday’s game at CenturyLink seems like it could be another disappointment for the 49ers and their fans.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Up-and-Down Raiders Face Stumbling Chiefs]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 08:50:18 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/175*120/carrveekayceiy.jpg

The Kansas City Chiefs are in a tailspin, having lost three consecutive games, beginning with the Raiders’ 24-20 victory over them on Nov. 20.

At 7-6, they’ll likely need to win their final three games of the season to get into the playoffs as a wild card.

The Raiders, meanwhile, have no playoff spot on the line when they travel to K.C. for Sunday’s 10 a.m. (PST) kickoff. They’re just 2-11.

Yet Oakland has been a different team over the past three weeks, having beaten the Chiefs and 49ers, two teams fighting for postseason berths. Sandwiched in between those two wins, however, is a 52-0 wipeout loss to the Rams in St. Louis.

So which team shows up Sunday? The one that’s 2-1 over the past three weeks or the one that got hammered in St. Louis?

One thing seems certain: The Chiefs are pumped up for the rematch, eager to avenge their recent loss and get back on track. Nose tackle Dontari Poe told reporters this week that while he wouldn’t characterize his team as coming out “flat” in that Nov. 20 loss, he does believe something was missing.

“I would just say we didn’t have the same intensity as we should or as we had in previous games,” Poe said. He added, however, that the Raiders should get the credit because they “came out and played their game.”

One of the keys for the Raiders will be to establish the running game with Latavius Murray. Murray was able to play vs. the Chiefs and 49ers, but missed the game against St. Louis. When he’s been healthy and in the lineup recently, the Oakland offense has been much more balanced and dangerous.

“He’s real good,” said Poe of Murray. “Fast, explosive, finds the hole real well. We’ve got to kind of put a hat on him and then try to keep him out of each hole.”

This final stretch of the season has been a great opportunity for Murray, who’s having a chance to show the Raiders he can be a No. 1 back in 2015. So expect the Raiders to again give him the ball early and often Sunday vs. K.C. If Murray can get some running room, the Raiders again have a chance to beat the Chiefs.

But Raiders quarterback Derek Carr knows beating the same team twice in a short span is going to be a challenge. He also noted he’d love for the Raiders to get their first road win this season. Both victories have come at O.co Coliseum.

“I’m looking forward to this one,” Carr told reporters this week. “Obviously, I know how physical they are. We played them. I know how I felt after that game and I know what to expect. A very physical defense, nothing but props to them. They’re talented all over the place.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Ditch Toilet-Like Design For New Arena]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 06:37:30 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/east-arena.jpg

The Golden State Warriors will never play in a toilet.

The Warriors have overhauled the design for their planned arena in San Francisco's Mission Bay, after sophisticated critics coast-to-coast noted that the schematics looked an awful lot like a common, everyday commode.

The San Francisco Chronicle notes team officials are taking the move in stride, going as far as to get in on the potty humor.

The Warriors are "trying to flush the toilet bowl forever out of people's consciousness," team consultant Jesse Blount told the newspaper.

The lid-down resemblance arose from two factors: a rectangular "bayfront terrace" that stuck out on one end, and a raised roof that, coupled together, resembled a toilet bowl's lid hinge and lid, respectively.

That is, if you're inclined to see such things.

Gone is the raised lid-like roof, and the protuding deck has been cut back a bit, too. The new effect is a resemblance like a a "Discman CD player," the Chron's Matier & Ross wrote.

Sometimes you can't win.

The new design is part of new overall plans for the 12-acre site the Warriors plan to redevelop into an arena complex with office towers, retail, restaurants, and a pedestrian plaza "larger than Union Square," the newspaper reported.

“We believe this plan is a perfect fit for Mission Bay, for San Francisco, and for the entire region,” said Joe Lacob, Co-Executive Chairman and CEO of the Warriors. “Our goal is to not only build a world-class arena for our team and our fans, but also create a vibrant place that residents and visitors will want to enjoy, whether on game days or any other day.”

The new entertainment center would be built on 11 acres of private, inland property, bounded by Third, 16th and South Streets, and Terry Francois Blvd.

The first shovel on the $1 billion project could go into the ground as early as this fall, with the Warriors to play their first games in 2018.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of MANICA Architecture. Images rendered by steelblue]]>
<![CDATA[Brooks May be in Final Season With 49ers]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 08:25:17 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/168*120/ahhbroyks.jpg

Over the past three seasons, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks has been a big part of the 49ers’ defensive success.

He had 22 sacks from 2011-2013, 16 passes defensed, two interceptions, a touchdown, four forced fumbles and was in on 156 tackles.

The 6-foot-3, 259-pounder is a wide-ranging linebacker with terrific pass rushing skills who often made impact plays, while being overshadowed by linebacking mates Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith.

The 49ers even signed him to a six-year deal after the 2011 season, making him a part of the team’s long-term plans.

But long-term plans in the NFL often aren’t that long. And it seems more and more likely that Brooks could be on his way out of San Francisco after this season.

This season Brooks has lost playing time to rookie Aaron Lynch and veteran Dan Skuta, and his snap count plummeted when Smith returned from suspension.

In the 49ers’ loss to Oakland on Sunday, Brooks didn’t play at all after missing a team meeting on Tuesday. He told the media he disagreed with the coaching staff’s decision not to play him.

“But I’m just a player,” he said. “I’m just a number. You know what I mean?”

When he was asked by reporters if this season might be the end of the line for him in San Francisco, he said: “You never know. My destiny is in God’s hands. So whatever happens, whatever He decides for me to do, that’s what I’ll be doing.”

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Brooks has had several incidents this season of conflict with the coaching staff. He reportedly showed up to training camp overweight, and also got into a sideline disagreement with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula during the victory over the Giants. There also were reports that the 49ers tried to trade him in October, Barrows notes.

When Brooks has played, he’s continued to be productive. In 12 games he has 27 tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble.

But the presence of Lynch, the play of Skuta and also the emergence of Michael Wilhoite and rookie Chris Borland on the inside will give the Niners further options next season.

The 49ers still have three games remaining this season, including Sunday's matchup with the Seahawks in Seattle. But those might be Brooks' final three in a 49ers uniform.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Montana Struggling to Get Development Near Stadium]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 09:17:49 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/05-05-2014-joe-montana.jpg

Joe Montana is still looking for the end zone as a real estate developer.

The 49ers' Hall of Fame quarterback is trying to seal the deal on a $400 million hotel, office and retail complex next door to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara that he has been pushing for the past four years.

But the project is still on hold -- with another delay pushing back construction to 2016 at the earliest, according to reports.

The San Jose Mercury News notes that Montana's partner on the deal has dropped out, and there's questions about how the 49ers will be compensated for the loss of parking spaces on the site when and if it is developed.

Montana still has exclusive rights to develop the 9-acre parcel of city-owned land in Santa Clara, and the local city council is poised to extend his golden deal on Tuesday.

He'll use his "star power" again to ask for the rights to be extended until 2017 -- a five-year stretch since elected officials allowed him to negotiate to get the public land developed in 2012.

The land is currently a parking lot used for Levi's Stadium, the newspaper reported.

Montana's dream for the complex also includes a sports bar and restaurant, in addition to the hotel.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders' Rivera Catching On With Carr]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 08:24:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/riveratdninyrs.jpg

Through the season’s first six games, second-year tight end Mychal Rivera had disappeared.

He had just 13 catches for 101 yards – a paltry 7.8-yard average – and zero touchdowns.

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr, with no running game to ease his load and no dynamic wide receivers, was in desperate need of dependable pass catchers, yet Rivera had become an afterthought.

Though he’d caught 38 passes as a rookie, some in the media were wondering if Rivera had already peaked, and that the Raiders would have to address the position again in the offseason.

Yet seven games later, all those doubts have been buried. When the 2-11 Raiders take on the Chiefs in Kansas City this Sunday, Rivera should be a prime target.

In this past Sunday’s 24-13 upset victory over the 49ers, Rivera was a big factor, catching seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. It was the first 100-yard receiving day for an Oakland tight end since 2012.

And, since Game No. 7, he’s caught 36 passes for four TDs, bringing his season totals to 48 catches for 464 yards – a 9.7 average – and the four scores.

Suddenly, Rivera has become Carr’s security blanket, finding open seams down the middle of the field and displaying the sure hands he showed as a rookie.

Rivera now ranks No. 2 on the team in receptions (behind James Jones’ 62) and has developed a great rapport with Carr. He has at least six catches in four of the past seven games.

Carr, in fact, said he and Rivera are learning to read one another and be in sync when attacking defenses. Carr told Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle that Rivera freelanced on some routes vs. the 49ers because of coverage – and it was exactly the right thing to do.

“There was one (play) where they covered him and he did a great job for me of stopping,” Carr told Ostler. “He understands the coverage. He understood what the guy was doing. So he knew if he stopped, I could pin it on him and make a play.”

Carr says Rivera does a nice job of  “finding the window.”

Carr, Rivera and running back Latavius Murray – all added in the past two years – now seem to be talented players the Raiders can build around for next season on offense.

Wrote Bill Williamson of ESPN.com this week: “If Murray can be a workhorse running back and Rivera can be a top tight end option, it will expedite Carr’s development. They can be core players for the long haul.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFLer Hill Probed for Sex Assault]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:51:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sammie-hill-getty.jpg

The Tennessee Titans say they are aware police are investigating a sexual assault allegation involving defensive lineman Sammie Hill.

"We will let the police investigate the allegation, and we will provide any assistance they need," the Titans said in a statement Monday. "We have discussed the matter with Sammie, and we will continue to gather facts."

Atlanta Police Department spokesman John Chaffee wrote in an email that a woman told police she had been sexually assaulted by Hill and they are working with the woman for more information.

The woman apparently contacted Houston police first. Spokesman Victor Senties confirmed to The Associated Press that Houston police took a report Friday from a woman alleging she had been sexually assaulted in Atlanta and forwarded that to police there.

Hill, who played at Stillman and a West Blocton, Alabama, native, is a six-year veteran in the second year of a three-year deal with Tennessee. The 6-foot-4, 328-pound Hill has started 12 games this season.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Did Police Go Too Far During Levi’s Stadium Arrest?]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 18:24:28 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/oregon-arrest.jpg

Santa Clara police are responding to accusations they went too far in dealing with a fan at Levi’s Stadium during the Pac-12 football championship game.

Officers were trying to eject a belligerent fan from the Oregon-Arizona game, police say.

The arrest was caught on tape and posted online. It shows officers hitting 44-year-old Mark Lydon with a baton on the back of his leg. It also shows another officer putting his arm around Lydon and several officers surrounding him.

During the incident, other fans can be heard commenting Lydon was not fighting back, but Lt. Kurt Clarke with the Santa Clara Police Department said the widely disseminated video doesn’t show what happened before the camera started rolling.

“Mr. Lydon came into contact with stadium staff and was very intoxicated and belligerent,” Lt. Clarke said. “He refused to follow directions and an officer saw this and decided to intercede.”

Whenever force is used during an arrest, there is an internal investigation. From there, the case could potentially go to the district attorney’s office for review.

Officers arrested Lydon for resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. Police say that assault happened when Lydon pushed an officer.

Lydon, who is from Eugene, Oregon, did not return NBC Bay Area’s attempts to reach him for comment.

Photo Credit: Santa Clara Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Niners' Hopes Could Soon Be Over]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:54:54 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/166*120/kaeppieloses.jpg

It has come to this:

The San Francisco 49ers, who have gone to three straight NFC Championship Games and had Super Bowl aspirations this season, could be eliminated from the playoff picture this Sunday with a loss at Seattle to the Seahawks.

A team that had won three straight games heading into a showdown with Seattle on Thanksgiving night, has now been embarrassed in two consecutive games to fall to 7-6 with three games remaining.

Now, it seems, the main conjecture around the 49ers isn’t about whether San Francisco can rebound to win three straight and sneak into the postseason, but when Jim Harbaugh will be let go and whether Colin Kaepernick can recover from a prolonged funk in which he looks nothing like the dynamic, running, playmaking, laser-armed quarterback who took San Francisco to the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

Now, Kaepernick is a sackable interception machine who looks sullen, beaten and confused in news conferences – and was called a “chump” by Raiders linebacker Sio Moore after Sunday’s Oakland victory.

So where did it all go wrong?

Did the slide start in the NFC Championship Game in Seattle in January, when the 49ers not only lost a heartbreaker but also All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman for this season, too?

Or was it the offseason, when linebacker Aldon Smith had more off-the-field troubles and was suspended for nine games? Or when the 49ers decided to let veteran center Jonathan Goodwin walk and saw guard Alex Boone stage a long holdout?

Then there were the injuries to linebacker Patrick Willis, right tackle Anthony Davis, running back Kendall Hunter, tight end Vernon Davis, center Daniel Kilgore and guard Mike Iupati, nose tackles Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams, top rookie defensive back Jimmie Ward and No. 1 cornerback Tramaine Brock.

There’s no question the 49ers have been hammered much harder by injuries in 2014 than they were in 2011, 2012 and 2013 under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Then again, perhaps the season was doomed the moment reports leaked in the offseason that the 49ers had talked about trading Harbaugh to the Browns and that Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke weren’t getting along. Since then, the rumors have gotten even hotter that Harbaugh is on his way out – and won’t return for the final year of his contract. Though players on the team have continued to swear that they love playing for their coach, it makes sense that all the noise surrounding him would eventually take its toll.

And then, there’s Kaepernick. The 49ers signed him to a long-term deal in the offseason, and some have speculated that since then, the team has tried to turn him into a pocket passer to protect its investment. Gone are the pistol, the read-option and the designed running plays that made him such a double threat.

Now, it appears Kaepernick is out of sync and out of confidence.

Wrote Paul Gutierrez, who covers the 49ers for ESPN.com:

“The thinking goes like this: because the front office has made such an investment in Kaepernick, the coaching staff has been nudged to not put him in harm’s way with designed running plays. And you see the result: a halting, dazed and somewhat exasperated Kaepernick, and the lack of individual success has bled over to the rest of the offense. At least that’s one theory.”

But there are many theories as to the demise of this team: injuries, absences, Harbaugh, Kaepernick, Greg Roman’s play-calling as offensive coordinator, the decline of the offensive line … it goes on and on.

And, there’s this, too: When the 49ers play the Seahawks in Seattle Sunday, they’ll go in as 10- to 11-point underdogs. Being a double-digit underdog is a first in the Harbaugh era.

For now, at least, the great hopes for this season are a distant memory.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sparano Keeping Raiders Positive During a Negative Season]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 09:12:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/spabeatsnyners.jpg

The Raiders could have rolled over and played dead a long time ago.

Thanks to Tony Sparano, they haven’t. And that’s as much a testament to the so-called interim head coach as it is to the players who’ve won two of their past three games, including Sunday’s shocking upset of the 49ers at O.co Coliseum.

After Sunday’s 24-13 victory was secured, that was Sparano getting a Gatorade shower on the sidelines by his players. And that was Sparano, giving an emotional speech to his players in the locker room after the game.

Though the Raiders still are tied for the worst record in the NFL at 2-11, they’ve continued to play hard under Sparano, who took over the team when it was 0-4 after Dennis Allen was fired.

Under Sparano, the Raiders are 2-7, but they’ve played hard for the NFL veteran assistant and head coach, nearly beating the Chargers (losing 31-28) and coming close against the Seahawks (30-24 loss) before coming up with Win No. 1 over the Chiefs, 24-20, after an 0-10 start.

Then, Sunday – after absorbing a 52-0 thumping to the Rams the week before – the Raiders again showed remarkable resiliency in rebounding to beat the heavily favored 49ers.

Sparano has stuck with rookie quarterback Derek Carr, and Carr has flourished. Lately, he’s given more touches to fullback Marcel Reece and running back Latavius Murray. Tight end Mychal Rivera – almost an invisible man early in the season – has become a go-to receiver. And the defense, hammered by injuries, has come up big in two of the last three games. Yesterday, the Raiders sacked Colin Kaepernick five times and put him under constant pressure.

The Raiders aren’t going anywhere this season, yet under Sparano, they haven’t crawled under a rock, either. He’s kept them motivated. Obviously, they respect him and have played hard for him.

It’s unlikely he’ll be the guy Mark Davis and GM Reggie McKenzie will pick to lead the franchise forward over the long term, but he’s undoubtedly been a positive influence.

“Give Sparano credit from keeping his team’s façade intact,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler, who also pointed out that Sparano’s efforts have helped take the heat off McKenzie.

McKenzie’s draft class, led by Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack, is playing well. Another good class, plus some smart offseason moves, could mean the start of a turnaround.

But before that happens, the Raiders and their fans owe a big thank you to Sparano, who’s done a solid job under tough circumstances.

As Sparano said in his locker room speech Sunday: “There in no let-up in this group. We decide when it’s over, OK? We decide when it’s over. Nobody else decides when it’s over … I’m really proud of you.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Shock 49ers to Win Battle of the Bay]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 08:27:51 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/PennTDvsniners.jpg

As the Battle of the Bay approached this past week, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a man of few words.

He answered questions from the media about Sunday’s game with the Raiders with a lot of “yeps” and “nos,” and offered little insight into the cross-Bay matchup.

His mood seemed a bit dark. Perhaps he could feel what was coming.

On Sunday, the Raiders made Kaepernick eat every one of his few words in Oakland’s 24-13 victory over the Niners at O.co Coliseum a decision that just about puts a fork in the 49ers’ hopes for a playoff spot while giving the Raiders and their fans the highlight of a disappointing season.

The 49ers dropped to 7-6 with their second straight loss, and now face a final three games at Seattle and vs. the Chargers and Cardinals at home needing to go 3-0 and hope for plenty of help to get into the postseason.

The Raiders, meanwhile, improve to 2-11 and have just a little bit more to build on toward 2015, with rookie quarterback Derek Carr throwing for three touchdowns and outplaying Kaepernick. It likely was Carr's best game as a pro.

The teams were tied 10-10 at halftime, but then San Francisco went on a 9-play, 44-yard drive in the third quarter to go up 13-10. Yet the drive didn’t yield a touchdown, a season-long problem for the 49ers offense. After having first-and-goal from the 9, they had to settle for a 20-yard Phil Dawson field goal.

The Raiders – who scored their first TD of the game on a 3-yard tackle-eligible pass from Carr to Donald Penn -- promptly responded with two 80-yard touchdown drives led by Carr, sandwiched around a San Francisco three-and-out, to go up 24-13 with 10:43 remaining in the game. The first drive ended with a Carr 9-yard TD pass to Marcel Reece; the second resulted in a 5-yard scoring pass to Mychal Rivera.

It certainly was a topsy-turvy result, considering the 49ers were playing for their playoff lives and were heavy favorites, while the Raiders were coming off a 52-0 loss and have zero chance of winning anything significant this season other than the right to choose first in the 2015 draft.

As longtime Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto tweeted at the time of the Rivera touchdown: “Successive 80-yard TD drives. By Raiders. Against 49ers. Birds now befriend cats, and dogs nuzzle the UPS driver.”

The 49ers then put together a long drive of their own in a bid to get back into the game, but stalled at the Oakland 29-yard-line, where Dawson was wide left on a 47-yard field-goal attempt.

For all intents, the game ended there, fulfilling Carr’s wishes for what he hoped would be a Raiders upset.

“If we could go out and win this one,” he told reporters early in the week, “it would be a fun one to see our fans go crazy.”

The victory earned a Gatorade bath for Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano. It earned 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh more attention for what now seems a certainty: that this will be his last season on the job in San Francisco.

Carr was 22-of-28 for 254 yards, three TDs and no picks. Kaepernick was 18-of-33 for 174 yards, one TD and two interceptions.

Oakland running back Latavius Murray, meanwhile, showed he indeed may be the team’s running back of the future, gaining 76 yards, 13 more than the 49ers’ Frank Gore (12 carries for 63 yards).

Even the Raiders defense put on a better shown than their cross-Bay counterparts, sacking Kaepernick five times in front of a stadium filled with 49ers and Raiders supporters.

Said Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, to the Associated Press, shortly after the decision: "That was nice. Great win for the guys. This is what football's all about, an environment like this."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 14]]> Sun, 07 Dec 2014 21:08:44 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/460128832.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the fourteenth week of the 2014 NFL season.]]>