The Raiders love to use man-to-man coverage on defense, and they do it as well as anyone in the league. So naturally, the 49ers spent the run-up to Sunday's game figuring out ways to get Oakland into a zone defense with which they were far less comfortable.
The result was a bunch formation, which produced the play of the game for San Francisco, Michael Crabtree's 32-yard touchdown catch at the end of the third quarter. The Raiders were forced to play zone against that formation and no one picked up Crabtree until the ball was well on its way.
"It's hard to man up when you get into the bunch set," Alex Smith said today. "One of the reasons we did a lot of that is because they play so much man to man, and when you get into the bunch sets it's difficult to do that. It's easy for (defenders) to get picked and rubbed. A lot of times we get zoned off, and that's kind of what happened."
Otherwise, Crabtree mostly was covered by the Raiders top cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who had shadowed Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald earlier in the season. Asked if he considered it a compliment to be trailed by one of the league's best cover men, Crabtree shrugged. "It didn't really matter about Nnamdi," he said. "I wasn't worried about it. I was just trying to win."
Vernon Davis had his head and neck checked out by trainers following his 17-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. But it's his knee that the 49ers are more concerned with today. Davis is having an MRI on the joint today.
Mike Singletary said he thought the injury also happened on the touchdown catch. Although Davis returned to the game, Singletary said the team wanted to be cautious about it. Davis injured his knee - it's not known if it's the same knee - in the preseason opener against Indianapolis and missed most of the preseason. "We just want to make sure we're smart about it," Singletary said.
Meanwhile, Singletary indicated that another tight end, Delanie Walker (high-ankle sprain), is unlikely to return this week against the Panthers.
When 330-pound defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga lined up at fullback yesterday, it was assumed that the inspiration was Singletary's former Bears teammate, William Perry, who famously played fullback for Chicago in the 1980s. Not so, said Singletary. The true inspiration was 49ers guard Guy McIntyre, who preceded Perry as a fullback and who was the inspiration for the Bears.
"I thought that was a heck of an idea," said Singletary, who had to square off against McIntyre when the Bears and 49ers met. It was Singletary who first raised the idea of having Sopoaga, a former rugby player, line up at fullback. Sopoaga said he's been practicing since Week 3.
-- Matt Barrows