At least Raiders’ fans can watch the games from start to finish now. Hey, that’s progress, Balls supposes.
Fact is, Pride and Poise played like Gloom and Confusion when it counted in a 22-20 loss in Chicago on Sunday. They blew a game against a previously winless Bears’ team that was there to be had, the kind of gift-wrapped opportunity that rarely came along on the road.
So much for a 3-1 start, which would have been the Raiders’ best since the Bill Callahan days.
After one-armed bandit Charles Woodson intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter for the second consecutive week, the Raiders still were in the chase somehow. Quarterback Derek Carr led a drive that resulted in a field goal and one-point lead, at which point it was left to the pass rush and secondary to close the deal.
But Bears’ QB Jay Cutler took advantage of a soft defense and moved his team into position for one last field goal. And if you knew anything about Cutler’s career, you realized that he didn’t have a clutch bone in his body.
Then again, when the 38-year-old Woodson is the best player in the secondary, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
HOCUS POCUS FOCUS: Don’t blame only the players here.
When Balls asked Raiders’ defense coordinator Ken Norton about overconfidence earlier in the week, he was incredulous. “Overconfident? The Raiders?” he asked.
Yeah, the Raiders. They were outgained 371-243 and had the ball six fewer minutes, which kinda told you their heads were in the clouds.
NOT SO FAST: Everyone is gaga about the athletic ability of Latavius Murray, a physical freak if there ever is one.
But before Murray is inducted into the Raiders’ Ring of Honor, he may want to improve his fundamentals. The running back had a swing pass bounce off his hands for an interception that the Bears turned into three points. Later he muffed a pitchout that killed a drive, after which coach Jack Del Rio was right to pull Murray after the second offense.
“Starts with turnovers,” Murray said of the loss. “I was the root of two of those. It’s hard to win like that. I think that’s where it starts.”
HAYDEN FRY: The Bears had the ball at the 7-yard line in the first quarter, and human torch D.J. Hayden lined up so far off Eddie Royal, he might as well have been been in Alameda still. Royals caught a TD pass as pretty as he pleased.
It’s time for Hayden to wear QBs Love Me on his back and just be done with it.
THE GREAT DIVIDE: The 49ers’ defense played well enough to beat mighty Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in a 17-3 snoozer, but oh, that stinkin’ offense.
The more urgent matter is team chemistry, which a peeved-off Alex Boone describes as iffy at best.
“We’ll find out tomorrow. It’s up in the air right now,” Boone conceded to Balls afterward. “But I’m sure with a good man-to-man session, we’ll figure this out.”
BUSH LEAGUE: Balls doesn’t pretend to be an offensive coordinator, but it knows that shorter, quicker passes can slow down an aggressive pass rush.
So where was Reggie Bush when the Packers pressured Colin Kaepernick time and again? The running back touched the ball all of two times, one of them on a run up the middle on third-and-11 that was just plain silly.
“I was able to do so,” Bush told Balls when asked whether his strained calf was healthy enough for a bigger load.
Was Bush disappointed that he didn’t get more chances?
“Nope,” Bush bit his tongue.
Because coordinator Geep Chryst was petrified that the line would be unable to protect the quarterback, he opted for an additional blocker in the backfield. And that didn’t allow Bush to do what he did best — beat single coverage out of the backfield.
“Yeah, we’ll see,” Bush said. “I don’t call the plays. You’ll have to ask the offensive coordinator about that.”
For now, Bush is a guaranteed $1 million waste of talent.
MORE GOREY DETAILS: Indianapolis Colts’ veteran Frank Gore is disappointed about the way his 49ers’ career came to a close, but c’mon, that was months ago. It’s time to get over it.
“Me and the head coach (Jim Tomsula) talked, and he basically told me I’d be in a certain situation, but I wanted to hear it from the GM [Trent Baalke],” Gore said per the Indianapolis Star.
“I mean, you could let us compete. You didn’t have to say I was automatically going to take the back seat. Put it on me. I mean, bro, I finished last season with 1,100 yards. Every time I got opportunities, I did something with it. So, I felt like, ‘Fine, if you want to go with the young guy, [make him] beat me out.’ It wasn’t like I can’t play anymore. If he beats me out, I can handle that. You can’t play this game forever. I knew I couldn’t be there forever. But I was there 10 years and I played every down the same whether we were winning or not.”
In his prime, Gore was a beast. But that wasn’t the guy we saw in a crucial 10-game stretch late last season, when he averaged 3.5 yards per carry, scored two touchdowns and looked every bit his 31 years.
Gore may have deserved a courtesy call, but it’s hard to fault Baalke on this one. Carlos Hyde is a keeeper, when he happens to get the ball.
JUST SAYIN’: Balls doesn’t know if the revised extra-point rule is the reason for all these no-good kickers lately, but the NFL rule-makers have gotten inside their heads at the very least.
DON’T START BELIEVIN’: Not long after Mike Leake pitched a shutout against a hung-over Los Angeles Dodgers team, Matt Cain pitched five shutout innings in the Giants’ season finale, which could turn out to be the absolute worst thing to happen to them.
Because if the baseball ops department really believes that Leake and Cain can fill out their rotation, Giants’ fans can kiss next season good-bye before it starts.
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