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Raiders' pass rush puts 49ers' playoffs hope on ice

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Defensive tackle Antonio Smith didn’t think there was anything too complex about the way the Raiders were able to beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. It came down to one piece of the puzzle that has been missing almost all season.

“We got a chance to pass rush,” a beaming Smith said in the locker room following Oakland’s 24-13 win over San Francisco. “You hardly ever get a chance to pass rush on first and second downs. Today we got a lot of third downs, and we got a lot of dropback passes. Whenever you have that, that’s when your pass-rushers feast.”

Feast they did.

The Raiders, who entered the game with an NFL-low 13 sacks, were in the face of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from the beginning until -- literally -- the very end.

Kaepernick was hurried into an interception on the first play from scrimmage. Oakland linebacker Sio Moore dropped the 49ers quarterback for a 7-yard loss the next time Kaepernick touched the ball, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

In all, Kaepernick was sacked five times -- the most by Oakland since Oct. 27, 2013, when the Raiders took Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger down five times. Kaepernick was also hurried five times and was chased out of the pocket much of the afternoon.

The best part for the Raiders? They did it almost exclusively with a four-man rush. Earlier in the week, interim coach Tony Sparano had said that was something the team needed to improve upon.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Kaepernick completed 14 of 24 pass attempts with two interceptions when the Raiders rushed four or fewer. By comparison, Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr went 17-of-22 with two touchdowns in similar situations.

“I think we won some one-on-one matchups in there today, and I think that hurt a little bit,” Sparano said. “Toward the end of the second half, [Kaepernick] got out of there a couple of times on us, and that’s dangerous. But I think for the most part we were able to close the pocket in there.”

Smith had two of the sacks, rookie linebacker Khalil Mack had two, and Benson Mayowa had the fifth.

It wasn’t just the number of sacks. The Raiders hit Kaepernick often and rattled the 49ers' quarterback, who became so frustrated he shoved a television cameraman out of his way as he walked to the locker room at halftime.

“Whenever you get pressure on a quarterback, you know you're in his head,” Smith said. “Early on, he was having some success breaking out of the pocket and making some big runs, so that gave him some confidence. Once we closed the front down, it just made it that much easier to get him down.”

Even when they didn’t sack Kaepernick, they caused him problems.

Midway through the fourth quarter, with the game tied 10-10, Kaepernick drove the 49ers down to Oakland’s 9-yard line. The Raiders dropped Frank Gore for a 1-yard loss on first down before Kaepernick -- with the pocket closing down around him -- fired an incompletion that nearly went into the stands, even though wide receiver Anquan Boldin was wide open cutting across the back of the end zone.

Kaepernick finished with only 174 yards passing and a 54.4 rating, while the Raiders celebrated their second win of the season and easily their best all-around game in quite some time.

Mack, Oakland’s first-round draft pick, put an emphatic end to the game when he sacked Kaepernick for a 9-yard loss on the final play.

“Those guys got after it,” safety Charles Woodson said of Oakland’s defensive line. “That's really what we expected those guys to do. Today they came in prepared, and they got after it.”