NAPA ? Before the Raiders suited up for a second day of practices against the 49ers on Wednesday, coach Tom Cable had a message for his quarterbacks: Don?t be tentative. Cut it loose.
Four red-zone interceptions and approximately 7,000 mocking whoops later, everyone associated with the Oakland offense had to admit they had taken the concept a bit too far. During a team period in the red zone over the final 30 minutes of practice, the 49ers? defense thoroughly outplayed and even humiliated the Raiders? offense.
Did the Raiders let it get under their skin?
?Yeah, man, who wouldn?t?? wide receiver Louis Murphy said. ?Any athlete, any competitor, it would rub you the wrong way...Congratulations to San Fran, man, we gonna come out here and just do it again.?
Things were much more competitive in the afternoon practice. The Raiders threw two more interceptions, but beat their cross-Bay rivals for plenty of completions, and seemed to have some open running lanes on handoffs. None of it could erase the painful memories of the a.m.
The day started out all right for Cable?s troops, as the quarterbacks and receivers more than held their own in one-on-one passing drills. But Murphy, the rookie from Florida who was back on the field after sitting out four days with a hip injury, lit a fuse when he got into an extended jawing match with 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer.
?That?s how I get motivated,? Murphy said later in the day. ?And the coaches know that. Just out there talking man, you know? That?s just part of my game. To a certain extent, it helps me get pumped and ready for the play.?
Wednesday, it pumped the opponents to the size of Macy?s parade balloons.
San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements got the ball rolling by intercepting a pass from JaMarcus Russell (first tipped by linebacker Takeo Spikes) in a seven-on-seven period that started to get away from the Raiders with overthrows and pass breakups.
But it was in the red zone that the scene quickly spiraled out of control. Clements sat on a route by tight end Zach Miller and picked off Russell?s throw. Then linebacker Diyral Briggs swiped Russell?s off-line pass to Miller on a short out. Then cornerback Dre Bly intercepted Bruce Gradkowski?s toss to Murphy. And on the very next snap, Gradkowski threw behind Darrius Heyward-Bey and Clements got his third pick of the day.
?Let?s go!? Clements shouted, running down the field while his teammates chortled. ?They can?t compete with this!?
It was stunningly one-sided. The 49ers looked invincible. The Raiders slumped in resignation.
Afterward, Cable took responsibility for the debacle.
?That?s really on me, because I?m trying to get the quarterback to cut it loose in the red zone ? but four picks, probably pushed it a little too much,? he said.
Russell didn?t throw all of the interceptions (he did have one of two in the afternoon), but he pretty much got all the attention. He?s in the third year of a contract that paid him nearly $32 million in guarantees, and it is generally assumed that his right arm will either carry or wreck the Raiders in 2009. If the red-zone debacle fazed him, Russell didn?t show it afterward.
?Hell, you play football, things happen,? he said. ?It ain?t like it?s the end of the world. If it is, you show me, but other than that, just go from it and go to the next play.?