Sunday’s 37-34 overtime battle between the 49ers and Raiders was one of the most entertaining games of the 2022 season, although it wasn’t expected to be that way at first. The 49ers were strong favorites (9.5 points) coming into the game after the Raiders made a switch at quarterback during the week from longtime starter Derek Carr to first-time starter Jarrett Stidham, but Stidham caught many by surprise — including maybe even the 49ers. — with how competitive he was able to keep the game.
Stidham — and whether or not the 49ers underestimated him — was one of many interesting topics of discussion to come out of the 49ers’ locker room after the game. We’ll dive into that and much more in this version of 49ers Notebook.
Stidham gave the 49ers all they could handle
It would have been understandable for the 49ers to expect an easier road to victory on Sunday after the Raiders made the move away from Carr. But Stidham more than held his own, finishing with 365 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while also making some key plays with his legs as the Raiders nearly came away with an upset win.
Did the 49ers underestimate Stidham? Maybe, or maybe not, based on their postgame comments. Defensive end Nick Bosa, whose pressure from Stidham led to a decisive interception in overtime, thinks the defense might have sold the quarterback short, even though he quickly proved them wrong.
“I think yeah, a little bit,” Bosa said after the win. “But you know, we don’t underestimate any team. We come in and play the best that he can. But he played well, so definitely won’t underestimate anyone like that again.”
What surprised Bosa about Stidham?
“Pocket presence,” Bosa said. “We gave him way too many open lanes in the pass rush. We need to clean that up for sure. But he was poised. He took hits — hit him a good amount of times. We all did, and he completed the ball on most of them. So he’s a tough player and smart.”
Stidham finished with seven carries for 34 yards, although Bosa seemed to blame the 49ers’ defense for those numbers.
“The lanes we gave him, anybody could have run through,” Bosa said. “Tom Brady could have run through those. That’s one of those things that as a D-Line, even a dominant D-Line, we can’t have it. Good quarterbacks are going to get out of the pocket and create downfield, and that puts our back end at a huge disadvantage.”
When 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked if the defense had a let down due to Stidham getting the start, he responded by saying he didn’t see anything along those lines, while adding the 49ers were well aware of the threat the Raiders posed due to to players such as tight end Darren Waller and wide receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow.
“No, I don’t think so,” Shanahan said. “I think we talked about it all week. I didn’t feel any let down. You can see when you watch the tape. I just think they played pretty well, and I won’t take anything away from them. But when a team plays well, you have some of the weapons that they do, especially the tight end and two receivers, and Stidham can throw. He’s got a big arm, can make all those throws. I thought we let him get a little too comfortable there in the first half especially. Didn’t hit him very much and let him move the change with his legs, and that kind of got them in a pretty good rhythm. And we knew the challenge of everyone else. There’s only one game this year that team hasn’t won or lost on the final possession.”
Stidham will have one more game this season — a home contest against Raiders archrival Kansas City Chiefs on January 7 — to prove he deserves consideration to be the Raiders’ starter on a long-term basis. But he won’t be sneaking up on anyone next week after pushing the 49ers.
Aiyuk delivers in the clutch
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had one of his best statistical games of the season for the 49ers, catching nine passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. Aiyuk was a factor on the final drive in particular during the final drive of regulation, during which he caught four passes while helping the 49ers set up a potential game-winning field goal, which was missed by Robbie Gould.
Had the 49ers been able to prevent the game from going to overtime, Aiyuk would have been a big reason why.
“He went full beast mode on that last drive,” running back Christian McCaffrey said. “That’s who he is — he’s a beast. The things that he does are special, especially in crunch time. For him to have a game like that and put our team on his back was awesome because we needed him, and he showed up .”
The connection shown between Aiyuk and quarterback Brock Purdy can be traced back to practice, where Purdy has been improving after injury issues (rib, oblique) limited him earlier in December. As a result, he’s been getting on the same page with Aiyuk and other 49ers pass-catchers.
“I feel like ever since I’ve gotten more healthy and stuff at practice, it’s been nice to just get on point with BA and all the receivers,” Purdy said. “So at the end (of the game), just sinking in terms of what we’ve done at practice time and time again, it was really nice to get things rolling.”
Aiyuk couldn’t have been more impressed with what he saw on Sunday from Purdy, who (with Aiyuk’s help) delivered in his first high-pressure situation as an NFL starter.
“He handled it great. He did a great job,” Aiyuk said. “Super calm dude. The moment’s never too big for him. I think we’re not just going out there and trying to put a plan together to where everybody picks up and we kind of hide what he’s got going on or he’s not ready. He’s out there leading two-minute drives, signaling, out wide, changing play calls while we’re going into two minutes. Today just really showed us that I think this dude is on a different level. I think he can play for sure. “
* Leaning on Jimmy G: Purdy has been able to use the veteran guidance of injured former starter Jimmy Garoppolo on a number of occasions this season, and it sounds like he’ll be doing so once more as the playoffs approach.
Garoppolo won two Super Bowl rings as a backup to Tom Brady with the New England Patriots and was the starter for the 49ers when they made a Super Bowl run in 2019. Purdy has discussed that game with Garoppolo in the past, and he’ll be checking in with him again in the days ahead to look for advice regarding his first playoff appearance.
“Jimmy’s played in a lot of big games and stuff, obviously,” Purdy said. “I talked to him about the Super Bowl and everything a while back and just all those games leading up to it. We haven’t talked recently in terms of what to expect, but definitely he’s going to be a guy I wind up going to and asking here shortly.”
A new version of the Battle of the Bay
The 49ers and Raiders have been an intense rivalry over the years, at least among Bay Area fans. The teams rarely play in the regular season, but they used to play regularly in the preseason — until multiple violent incidents among fans of a game in 2011 caused the annual meeting to go on a ten-year hiatus.
The rivalry isn’t the same now that the Raiders have moved to Las Vegas, but that doesn’t mean the desire to beat the Raiders has died down among 49ers fans.
“This is my first time playing the Raiders in a regular season game,” Aiyuk said Sunday. “It’s a January 1 game, so it’s obviously a huge game. Just throughout the week, talking to people, I got people hitting me up telling me I don’t know how serious this rivalry is. I think it’s pretty important to me too , but just seeing that and hearing that, it kind of made me realize this might be a little bit deeper than I thought.”
The atmosphere at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday was electric, due in part to the large contingent of 49ers fans that took over the stadium.
“Shout-out to them and The Faithful,” offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “What an unbelievable deal that is, to be able to come on the road in Week 17 and the home team’s just silent counting (while) the away team isn’t. That’s a testament to our franchise and what we built, the success the Yorks and the DeBartolos have had in our area and the passion that people have had for us. And it’s greatly appreciated because I think it was a huge advantage for us.”
But there was at least one fan interaction that was as friendly as it gets. A Raiders fan was able to propose on the field to his girlfriend — a 49ers fan — and it looks like they will live happily ever after.
It could be four seasons until the Raiders and 49ers meet again, but Sunday’s game will be remembered for quite a while. The win gave the 49ers an 8-7 edge in the regular season series with the Raiders, dating back to 1970.
The San Francisco 49ers might have a little easier time earning their ninth consecutive win of the season. Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels announced that he is benching quarterback Derek Carr in favor of Jarrett Stidham, calling it “an opportunity to evaluate a younger player.” Josh McDaniels said #Raiders are going to start Jarrett Stidham at QB over Derek Carr because “it’s an opportunity to evaluate a younger player.” — Vic Tafur (@VicTafur)
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