When linebacker Sio Moore is dancing that’s usually a good sign for the Raiders. And there he was in the third quarter, bobbing to the beat during a time out, strutting and egging on a raucous crowd.
It was brash confidence. It was expecting something good to happen. It was dominating and rubbing it in the opponent’s face. The Raiders have been estranged from such swagger all season.
By the end of their 24-13 win over the 49ers, it was the Raiders who looked like the team battling for the playoffs. It was the Silver & Black that looked most familiar with December victories.
Where have these Raiders been?
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The Raiders looked nothing like a one-win team coming in, or like they were coming off an historic 52-0 loss at St. Louis.
And, yes, some of it had to do with the disaster that is the 49ers — whose regression extended to the usually stout defense this week. But mostly, it seemed, the Raiders just decided to be great.
“It’s great but it’s also frustrating,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “This team is not far off. I know the record says other wise. But this team is not far off.”
The Raiders owned the line of scrimmage. Owned.
On offense, rookie quarterback Derek Carr had enough time to go through all his options, pray, then go through the reads again. And often, he’d eventually find tight end Mychal Rivera wide open for a big gain
On defense, the Raiders four defensive front lived in the 49ers backfield. The Raiders sacked Colin Kaepernick five times and forced him into an erratic afternoon, picking him off twice. The 49ers’ run game didn’t do much better. Of the the 97 rushing yards gained, 26 came from Kaepernick scrambles.
The Raiders were firing on all cylinders. They played with passion. Their scheme was aggressive. They smelled blood and turned it up a notch.
This is how it was supposed to be, what it could’ve been. They’ve got veterans who should know how to execute, young talent that shouldn’t have a problem with energy, and a home-field advantage that makes opponents quake in their cleats.
That equation that should equal more than 2-11. The Raiders the 49ers ran into Sunday would be good for six to eight wins.
“To me, it feels good,” said tackle Donald Penn, who caught his second career touchdown. “But I still have a sick taste in the back of my mouth because it’s like “Why can’t we do that more often? Why can’t we do that on a more consistent basis? That’s where I want to get to, and then I’ll be satisfied.”
The good news: the Raiders actually got film now to prove they weren’t crazy to expect something from this roster. Sunday’s impressive win answered a few important questions that still seemed to be up in the air for the Raiders.
One of them: they are a much better offense when Latavius Murray and Marcel Reece get the bulk of the carries.
Another: Carr can handle an advanced game plan — if he gets time. He can make the throws. He has the poise. Training wheels aren’t needed. The dump-offs should not be a steady diet.
Another: they have to nail the coach. The Raiders still have several holes and patching them all while playing up the team’s strengths, and motivating the vets, and developing the future stars, requires a coach who can handle it all. Tony Sparano is showing just how much Dennis Allen wasn’t that guy, and how important it will be for the next coach to be that guy.
But that’s for later. For now, the Raiders are kings of the Bay after snatching that crown off the dome of the 49ers.
It was no doubt a welcomed consolation prize for their tortured fan base. The crowd had a significant number of red jerseys. And those wearing black delighted in 49ers fans witnessing live their team, their season, their franchise, being dismantled.
It’s been a disappointing year for both franchises. But for one week, the Raiders got to revel while the 49ers grovel.
The 49ers’ playoff hopes are still alive, technically. But their spirit was broken. By the Raiders. In Oakland.
With Sio Moore grooving on the 49ers’ grave.
“It was the ‘Battle of the Bay,’ baby,” defensive lineman Antonio Smith said after two sacks. “You know it’s more satisfying. … I think this week, more and more of us became true Raiders. Knowing what the heritage about, knowing what a Raider is, knowing what this game was about, knowing how important it was to this city.”
Marcus Thompson II is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group.