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Execution When It Counts
Daniel Leroux. 20th October, 2010 - 2:40 am

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I?m not going to say that the 49ers turned a corner.

I?m not going to say that this game was an omen for the rest of the season.

I?m not going to say that Jed York is right?yet.

But a win sure feels better than a loss.

At its most basic, Sunday?s game between the 49ers and Raiders was decided by a single thing: one team maximized their opportunities in the other team?s side of the field and one team did not. That coupled with the turnover margin gave San Francisco what they needed to win.

After Week 5's game, defensive leader Takeo Spikes said that the team needed a ?spark.?

After Sunday?s game, I asked him if the team found it in the win. He stopped for a split second, looked at me, and said ?absolutely? without going into much further detail.

I do not doubt his conviction for a second, yet the overall feel of the game was one where the 49ers won on the aggregate without a spark.

There were two major components to the win: luck and pivotal execution. In the first half, the defense did an excellent job keeping Oakland out of the end zone, especially after the terrible 46-yard pass interference by Shawntae Spencer on the first play of the game and Louis Murphy?s ridiculous 43-yard run in the second quarter.

(Quick interjection: Taylor Mays running Murphy down was awfully impressive and may have saved the Niners the game in hindsight). On each of those drives, the Raiders made it inside the San Francisco 15-yard line and only generated a combined six points. In comparison, the only time the 49ers got inside the Raiders? 30 in the first half was with mere seconds to go. At the half, the score was 6-3.

The defense was helped by the Raiders combining an unwillingness to pass with a complete lack of success when doing so. When the game was over, Jason Campbell?s two completions to Zach Miller on one fourth quarter drive constituted more than half of his 83 total passing yards. The 49ers helped fuel the decision not to pass by intercepting Campbell (again, on a pass to Miller) on a nice play by Manny Lawson, yet most of the impetus for that move was on the Raiders? coaching staff. In fact, there was a span of more than 30 minutes of game time in between Campbell completions, which is an accomplishment no matter the context.

From there, all the offense had to do was keep their heads on straight, not turn the ball over, and take advantage when possible. Turnovers were a major theme of the post-game, with Alex Smith saying that being smart with the ball ?was definitely a key coming into this,? with throwaways being a major component of that. The defense showed their appreciation for this as well. Takeo Spikes said it best: ?We were able get turnovers and we didn?t turn the ball over; point blank period.? That?s how the Niners won this game.

A few other notes on the game:

- Alex Smith attributed the little issue with Josh Morgan on a route as ?miscommunication.? It is worrisome to have that kind of issue this late in the season, though it could be at least partially attributable to the change in coaching.

- The blocking on Frank Gore?s long run that pretty much sealed the game was the best blocking I?ve seen all year from this team. When asked about the run, Smith talked about the o-line and mentioned that runs like that ?come because the receivers downfield are blocking and holding up their guys? as well as the line. Considering how the offense played most of the game, that kind of blocking will need to become more frequent if this team wants to keep adding to the win column.

- By my amateur calculation, Alex Smith was 1-for-4 on passes to receivers more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, with the one being the TD pass to Michael Crabtree. It might be telling that the 49ers won a game with that ratio when Smith was much more successful in a loss last week to Philly.

- Last week, the D left tons of Eagles? receivers wide open and gave Kolb tons of options. While there were plays like the Murphy run with flawed openings and pursuit, there were far fewer passing choices for Jason Campbell.

- The phantom pass interference call against Alex Smith (right before the Crabtree TD) was a horrendous call. If that precedent was followed, almost every college QB could be booked a few times a game just for flying balls over their WR?s. Terrible call.

When all is said and done, San Francisco will not be able to win a whole lot of games like this one since most games are not played against teams as flawed as the Raiders in conditions like Sunday?s. However, the positive things that worked so well in this game (namely the turnovers and red zone D) can be the cornerstone of future success this season.

Feel free to e-mail Daniel at Daniel.Leroux@realgm.com or follow him on Twitter @DannyLeroux