Aaron Rodgers

How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

russplayactionap.jpg
AP

How Seahawks' Russell Wilson beat 49ers' pass rush with play-action

The 49ers got to Russell Wilson in Monday night's 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Wilson was sacked a season-high five times at Levi's Stadium, posting his second-worst passer rating of 2019 (86.9) and a season-low 43.6 QBR. He also threw his second interception of the season and fumbled for the first time since Week 4. 

Yet Wilson did just enough to remain effective in spite of that pressure, showing why he is an MVP frontrunner when he led the Seahawks to their game-winning field-goal drive in overtime. Wilson also employed plenty of misdirection to keep the 49ers' dominant pass rush at bay, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. 

On the season, the 49ers have pressured QBs on 29.7 percent of dropbacks. That 17 percent pressure rate on play-action plays would be 30th-best in the NFL if extended over a full season, just behind the Cincinnati Bengals (17.1 percent) and just ahead of the Oakland Raiders (15.9 percent). 

For reference, those two teams have combined for five fewer sacks (30) than the 49ers have all season. 

Wilson's play-action success could give opposing teams something of a blueprint, and that could trip up the 49ers in their own division down the stretch. In addition to playing the Seahawks once more, the 49ers also will play the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 at Levi's. Rams coach Sean McVay loves using play-action, and the Rams were far more efficient last season on play-action passes than traditional ones. The Rams have taken a step back this season and the 49ers kept LA's offense in check in Week 6, but play-action remains a big part of the Rams' offense and the 49ers will have to be ready for it.

[RELATED: 49ers ready to focus on Cardinals after tough Seahawks loss]

It doesn't stop with the Seahawks and Rams. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is known for his play-action abilities, too, while Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers also have been better in play-action this season. The 49ers play Green Bay and Arizona in each of the next two weeks. 

San Francisco has a difficult slate of QBs remaining on its schedule, including ones who succeed where Wilson did Monday night. That's one additional area the 49ers will have to shore up down the stretch. 

Deshaun Watson stands in way of successful finish to Raiders road trip

watsonusa.jpg
USATSI

Deshaun Watson stands in way of successful finish to Raiders road trip

ALAMEDA -- What do Joe Flacco, Jacoby Brissett and Chase Daniel have in common? All three are in the "non-elite" category of quarterbacks and all three have been handed defeats by Jon Gruden's Raiders this season. 

On the other end are Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, two NFL stars that sliced and diced the Silver and Black en route to decisive victories over Gruden's club. The Raiders' third loss -- a trouncing at the hands of Kirk Cousins and the Vikings -- was a perfect avalanche that doesn't fit into either box. 

Turn your attention to Week 8 -- the final contest in a five-game road trip that has seen the Raiders go 2-2 and put themselves in the thick of the AFC playoff race -- and you'll see the Texans and otherworldly star quarterback Deshaun Watson. 

The Clemson is an elite talent, and when his offensive line isn't making him run for his life, Watson is as lethal as they come. 

A win Sunday in Houston would give the Raiders a 4-3 record and a 3-2 road trip, sending them back home with momentum for a playoff push. A victory over Watson also would be a big test passed for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's unit, giving them a first win against the level of quarterback they have been unsuccessful in stopping to date. 

"He's an accurate thrower of the ball," Guenther told the media Thursday about Watson. "He can move around the pocket, he's athletic, he understands coverage." 

The Raiders have struggled to generate a pass rush this year, and Watson could pick them apart if he's allowed to stand in the pocket with time.

Mahomes threw four touchdowns in a second-quarter barrage in Week 2 that left the Raiders' defense frustrated and stunned. Rodgers was surgical in Week 7, putting up a perfect passer rating while throwing for 429 yards and five scores in the Packers' win at Lambeau Field. 

In order to not fall victim to another elite quarterback, the Raiders must do a better job at every level Sunday. 

"I just feel like, we know we have to complement each other," edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, who played with Watson for two seasons at Clemson said. "That's the biggest thing, you know what I mean? Guys on the backend got to compliment the D-line, guys on the D-line got to compliment them. Also with the linebackers. Obviously, we have to be able to contain a guy like Deshaun and just be able to put pressure on him and guys just have to cover the receivers good on the back end, not have any miscommunications, stuff like that.

"Because when we all working on one chord I feel like we are a really, really good defense. It's when not complement each other is when I feel like we at fault."

While talented, Watson still is young and prone to making mistakes. After going four straight games without a turnover, Watson has thrown two interceptions in each of the last two games. The importance of the Raiders pressuring Watson and forcing him off his spot can't be overstated, especially with rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen getting his first career start following the trade of Gareon Conley. 

Guenther and the Raiders were unable to fluster Rodgers and it led to a gashing they are still recovering from. Watson has yet to reach supernova status, but he has all the tools to carve the Raiders up in a similar fashion Sunday in the Lone Star State. 

[RELATED: Gruden hints at possible wide receiver move for Raiders]

The end of a season-defining road trip is here for the Raiders. Now, they just have to find a way to force an elite quarterback out of his comfort zone and into some mistakes. 

If they do that, the plane ride home will be a celebration with talk of playoff football for the Silver and Black.

Raiders snap count: Maxx Crosby retains workload in loss vs. Packers

Raiders snap count: Maxx Crosby retains workload in loss vs. Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Maxx Crosby earned his first start during a Week 5 victory over Chicago in London. The fourth-round draft pick was the next man up with Clelin Ferrell in the concussion protocol and turned in an impactful performance against the run and pass.

Ferrell was cleared to play Sunday in Green Bay and reclaimed his starting spot but lost some of his snaps. Ferrell, the No. 4 overall draft pick, selected 102 places above Crosby, saw some of his workload given to Crosby.

The Eastern Michigan product has earned it, getting his second NFL sack on a key early third down. He played more against the run than any other game save the Bears win, and took more snaps against the Packers than any other defensive lineman.

He played 42. Ferrell, who essentially was a three-down player, had 37. He did not show up on the stat sheet against Green Bay and was credited with just one quarterback hurry.

The Raiders didn’t do enough to pressure Aaron Rodgers in a 42-24 loss to the Packers, and the elite quarterback picked them apart.

Ferrell certainly needs to make a greater impact up front, even if rookies generally struggle some to start their NFL careers.

They don’t have the luxury of developing away from the spotlight. Not in a position group being slowly built through the NFL draft.

The Raiders still asked Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow to play every defensive snap, which should be a regular occurrence if both guys stay healthy, but they weren’t the only linebackers to play defense. Justin Phillips played 14 snaps after exclusively working on special teams.

The Raiders stuck with their starting secondary and never moved Daryl Worley around the formation as coaches discussed last week. He was locked at outside cornerback opposite Gareon Conley. Neither player fared well against Rodgers and a fast Packers receiver corps working without Davante Adams.

Nevin Lawson only played special teams in his return to action.

David Sharpe started and played every down at right tackle for Trent Brown (calf), and Gabe Jackson was able to play well over all 66 offensive snaps in his return from a knee injury.

[RELATED: Grading Raiders' offense, defense in loss vs. Packers]

OFFENSE
Total offensive snaps: 66

Quarterback – Derek Carr 59, Mike Glennon 7

Running back – Josh Jacobs 37, Jalen Richard 15, Alec Ingold 16, DeAndre Washington 14

Wide receiver – Trevor Davis 50, Hunter Renfrow 30, Keelan Doss 29, Marcell Ateman 23

Tight end – Darren Waller 61, Foster Moreau 32, Derek Carrier 21

Offensive line – Richie Incognito 66, Kolton Miller 66, Gabe Jackson 66, Rodney Hudson 66, David Sharpe 66, Brandon Parker 2

DEFENSE
Total defensive snaps:
60

Defensive line – Maxx Crosby 42, Johnathan Hankins 38, Clelin Ferrell 37, P.J. Hall 35, Josh Mauro 33, Maurice Hurst 22, Benson Mayowa 20, Corey Liuget 17

Linebacker – Tahir Whitehead 60, Nicholas Morrow 60, Justin Phillips 14, Kyle Wilber 2

Defensive back – Karl Joseph 60, Erik Harris 60, Gareon Conley 58, Daryl Worley 57, Lamarcus Joyner 44, Trayvon Mullen 1

SPECIAL TEAMS

Wilber 23, Nevin Lawson 23, Curtis Riley 17, Moreau 16, Dallin Leavitt 16, Phillips 14, Harris 14, Dakota Allen 12, Ingold 12, Joseph 11, Joyner 10, Davis 10, Daniel Carlson 9, Mullen 8, Morrow 8, Washington 7, Hurst 6, Hankins 6, Trent Sieg 6, Worley 6, Crosby 6, Whitehead 6, A.J. Cole 6, Ferrell 5, Andre James 4, Denzelle Good 4, Parker 4, Incognito 4, Sharpe 4, Miller 4.