It rained. Then it poured. And then the 49ers won their first game of 2010.
After light showers fell for most of Sunday’s first quarter action between the 49ers and Raiders, fans booed heavily at the home team for its inconsistent first half performance on offense.
But as soon as the sun arrived, when the 49ers began their second drive of the second half, so did the home offense.
Alex Smith bounced back from a spotty first-half performance to lead a 13-play, 91-yard scoring drive capped by a perfectly thrown 32-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.
Crabtree was covered by Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on the afternoon, but on this particular play, he beat Oakland cornerback Chris Johnson down the middle of the field.
The touchdown gave the 49ers their first lead of the game, one they would not relinquish as they went on to beat the Raiders 17-9.
“It does feel great, but at the same time, it’s the first one,” said Smith, on a day where he completed 16-of-33 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. “We continued to battle and pulled it out in end the way we did, I think it says a lot about the character we have in the locker room.”
As much as the 49ers second-half momentum was boosted by Smith’s touchdown passes, none of it would have been made possible if it weren’t for the dominant play of the 49ers defense.
The Raiders were held to 10 first downs, 179 net yards and 69 passing yards on the day. Jason Campbell did not complete a single pass in the second or third quarters and finished the game with a quarterback rating of 10.7 (8-of-21 for 83 yards and two interceptions).
“I didn’t realize he wasn’t making too many completions, but I did realize we were getting off the field a lot on third downs,” safety Dashon Goldson said. “It feels good to get the win, especially when you see the end result, statistically and with the score.”
It didn’t appear as if the 49ers were headed for a victory after the Raiders jumped out to an early lead.
Thanks to three third-down conversions and a 46-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Shawntae Spencer, the Raiders got on the scoreboard first with a 27-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski on the game’s opening drive.
Janikowski added to the Oakland lead with a 24 yarder, set up by a 43-yard reverse from wide receiver Louis Murphy. It would be the only big play surrendered by a 49ers defense which limited Oakland to 3.4 yards per play.
“You take your hat off to their defense, they did play hard,” Campbell said. “We should have scored some touchdowns and made it a lot harder on them.”
The 49ers defense came up big several times in the game’s early stages. It was highlighted by linebacker Manny Lawson’s diving midfield interception on a Campbell pass intended for tight end Zach Miller.
The 49ers did not score points off the turnover though.
The offensive unit struggled to put together consistent drives, but both teams did for that matter. At one point in the second quarter, both teams combined for five consecutive three-and-outs.
The punts bothered the home crowd, but they weren’t as detrimental to head coach Mike Singletary or Smith for that matter. The 49ers did not turn the ball over a single time on Sunday, and improved to 9-0 under Singletary when winning the turnover battle.
“I think the most important thing we did today as an offense is not try and force something that just wasn’t there,” Singletary said.
Smith agreed. Ball control was the key to this 49ers victory.
“We knew coming in we were going to go after these guys a little bit, but if it wasn’t there, get rid out of the ball, throw it away, be smart and really manage the game,” Smith said. “[I] had a bunch of throwaways, but it was smart football.”
For all the 49ers struggles on offense in the first half, the final drive proved to be the momentum swing into the second half. It wasn’t any halftime speech that pushed the 49ers to play better; it was simply the belief that they were simply capable of performing at a higher level.
“Nothing was said, we knew what we could do,” Goldson said. “We had to get off the field, get the ball to our offense and put points on the board.”
The offense knew they had to be patient in all areas of the offense, running game especially.
Frank Gore rushed for 26 yards in the first half, and churned out 123 second-half rushing yards, largely due to the belief that the running game would wear the Raiders down.
“We knew we had to keep pounding them, because four-yard carries would turn to sixes and sixes would turn to eights and eights turned to a 64,” rookie right tackle Anthony Davis said referring to the mindset that led to a 64-yard run by Gore in the fourth quarter.
Gore received multiple blocks on the play, including ones from center David Bass, fullback Moran Norris and a downfield block from Crabtree that sprung him for his largest run of the season.
Two plays later, the 49ers were in the end zone again, after a play-fake to Gore sucked in the Raiders defense leaving Vernon Davis alone for a 17-yard touchdown catch.
Oakland had one last chance to tie the game trailing by eight points with 3:14 left in the game, but veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes put a stop to their plans by intercepting Campbell’s pass intended for wide receiver Jacoby Ford.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Spikes said. “People ask, ‘Why this? Why that?’ We were able to get turnovers and we didn’t turn the ball over; point blank. Period.”
The 49ers know they have a recipe for winning, now it’s on them to continue to implement it in the final 10 games of the regular season.
The following injuries were announced by the 49ers public relations staff, but none are deemed to be major. All of the following players returned to the game. Cornerback Nate Clements (leg contusion), linebacker Manny Lawson (rib contusion), wide receiver Josh Morgan (thigh contusion), defensive tackle Justin Smith (hand laceration) and linebacker Parys Haralson (calf contusion).