Battle of the Bay.
We haven't had one since 2010 when the Raiders lost to the 49ers at the no-longer operational Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
Raiders vs. 49ers is a passionate, heated rivalry. If you can't get fired up for this match-up…well…to put it simply - you should.
How big is this game? It took only a handful of words from future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson to convince DE Justin Tuck of its importance. "Charles Woodson came to me today and the first thing he said to me was, 'Let's get this one.' That was enough for me," said Tuck. "I've played in some rivalry games as far as same city, same backyard type rivalries playing the Jets and things like that. You know that it's going to be a game that you're going to come out of it very sore. You' re going to come out of it very banged up, but it brings the best out of you. I think that's what this team needs, someone that is going to bring the best out of us."
The 49ers playoff hopes hang in the balance after a 19-3 dismantling by the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving, while the Raiders are looking to redeem themselves after a disheartening shutout loss in St. Louis.
Both teams are down, but the rivalry is very much alive and is picking up the spirits and determination of the Raiders organization. "The rivalry, Raiders, 49ers, that's obviously a real big thing and we're excited about it," said Interim Head Coach Tony Sparano. "Excited about the opportunity. I think when you come off a game like [St. Louis], to know that you have that opportunity this week, in your stadium, with your fans out there, it certainly gets the players excited."
CB Tarell Brown is familiar with the intensity of the cross-bay rivalry after playing for San Francisco for years. "It's exciting. I think two great teams, two great franchises, another opportunity to play football on Sunday," said Brown. "It means a lot just for the area and also for the organizations as well. I think when you think of the Bay Area you think of both teams. You think of tradition. You think of both teams. At the end of the day it's about 11 guys on both sides of the ball, coming out, playing physical and going out there competing and winning a football game."
Fans have had this game circled on the calendar since the schedule came out in April and the players recognize its importance to Raider Nation. "Big rivalry game. Everybody in this area has been waiting for this game for a long time," said Tuck. "I think that's the best thing that could have happened after a loss like that, is to have this type of game where all of your attention has to be focused on the 49ers going forward."
Take a look back at the Raiders vs 49ers rivalry, regular and pre season, in pictures.
Every game is a big game, but there's a little something extra with this one. "There's more of a sense of urgency. Every game you go into, you're expecting to win and play, but this is the Battle of the Bay and you always want to have those bragging rights when next year comes around," said rookie G Gabe Jackson. "It's a big opportunity for us."
Coach Sparano understands the magnitude of this game in Oakland. "I understand how big of a game it is for our organization, for our team and for our fans," said Coach Sparano. "I do, I really do. There's no greater feeling for me than two weeks ago when, as I said, at the end of the ball game, I went out into a restaurant and saw Raider fans smiling from ear to ear. That's a great feeling."
The Raiders head coach plans to have his squad ready for the on-field battle. "I think any time two teams, and I've been part of it a long time, are this close in proximity to one another, it's deemed that it's going to be a rivalry," said Coach Sparano. "I think that part about it, that's fun. To have a game like that right now, at this time of year and be able to go into that situation in our place, with our fans out there, that's exciting. I know it's big for the organization, I get it. I know what the record is over the last several years, since 2000 or whatever that is, since the team moved back here. You've got rivalries, but you have to make sure that when you're in a rivalry, that both teams show up. That's the intention."
The Raiders have to prepare for a mobile quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, a powerful runner in Frank Gore, wide receiver threats, and a defense that, despite multiple injuries, continues to have an impact on the game, limiting opposing offenses to 20.3 points per game (good for 8th in the NFL).
"I just know they're a very physical team," said WR James Jones. "They play with a lot of heart, a lot of passion. They have a lot of good players over there. They have a good ball club, but I know they play hard. They take a lot of pride in what they do, so we're going to have to come out, we're going to have to match their intensity if not exceed their intensity. We're at home in front of our home fans, yeah there are going to be some 49ers fans there, but we're at home and we have to go out there and protect our house."
Led by Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have gone deep into the playoffs the last three years. Although more of a struggle this season, they still hold a 7-5 record. "Well-coached, obviously. They seem to find their way and start playing their style of football around this time of year," said Tuck. "It's going to be a physical bunch that is going to come in here and try to out-man you, out-physical you. Big, very experienced O-line. Very athletic and capable quarterback. Their defense is playing great. They'll be coming in here with a lot of emotion too. They are coming off a loss to another rival, a tough game they had against Seattle. We will have a very well-coached, oiled up group coming in here to our place. That's what we want. We want to have them here. This is a very important game for both teams. I am looking forward to it."
Brown faced Kaepernick in practice on a weekly basis since the mobile QB became the 49ers starter and has great respect for what the young quarterback is able to do. "He's an amazing quarterback. I think he can do it with his arm and his legs," said Brown. "He's doing a great job of spreading the ball around with all the weapons that he does have. He's not running as much because he doesn't have to. He has two good running backs, a good fullback, tight ends that can play, and multiple receivers that he can get the ball to, so those guys will do most of the running and running after the catch. For us, we have to be sound tacklers. We have to go out there and limit the [yards after catch], and that's something the coaches have been harping on throughout this week."
The Raiders defensive line knows they will have to get after Kaepernick, but at the same time, keep him in the pocket to prevent him from using his mobility. "You keep him in the pocket, and that's, I guess, the easy answer to a very complicated question because if it was that easy, then everyone would do it," said Tuck. "You just have to be up front. You definitely have to be mindful of your rush lanes, mindful of down and distance, what coverages we have behind him, if we have spies or zones, where guys are looking at him. You definitely don't want him to get out of the pocket when you have guys in man-to-man coverage because by the time they turn around, he's right there beside them. He's that mobile and that quick. It has to be a team effort in dealing with him."
Duplicating Kaepernick's skill set is difficult, so preparing during the week is a challenge. "It's tough to prepare for the unpredictability factor. It's tough when Colin does a great job of escaping, creating, extending, doing all those things," said Coach Sparano. "This guy can really run. He's an explosive player. He can really run, and the extension of plays concerns you, because when he can get out of the pocket and he can create and do those things. Then they have weapons. They have guys that can go get the ball for him. We have to do a good job of not letting him out of the pocket. We can't let him go that route on us."
Gore is another threat out of the backfield for the 49ers. Despite being in the midst of his least productive season, Gore still has 712 yards rushing and another 106 receiving yards. "He's just been a good back," said LB Sio Moore. "I think he does a good job running the ball hard and well, and that's what you have to do when you play the position. We just have to make sure we do what we have to do to take care of that and match that intensity."
On the other side of the football, the 49ers have explosive pass rushers in the two Smiths - Justin and Aldon. "He's a smart player," said Jackson on Justin Smith who has five sacks and two forced fumbles. "He's had success in the league for a reason. Fundamentally, he has good strength and he has a motor, he plays well. He plays from the start of the game to the end. You just have to be on top of him."
QB Derek Carr has faced many productive, powerful defensive fronts this season, including last week in St. Louis, where he was sacked three times. He knows this week will be another challenge. "They're obviously talented. It's easy to see that when you turn the film on and they're running right through people and around them and all those things," said Carr. "You have to be able to schematically do some things. Also, you have to trust that we can win our one-on-ones as well. That's what it comes down to in this league, I've learned. Each man has to win, and hopefully we can do that on a consistent basis. We know the challenge it's going to be, especially against these guys."
The 49ers also have a rookie linebacker that has emerged as their leading tackler. Chris Borland won the NFL Rookie of the Week honor twice (Weeks 10 and 11) and was named the Rookie of the Month for November. Borland has 87 tackles and a sack through the first 12 games, of which he's only started six.
"No. 50 [Borland] has been playing real well," said Murray. "It's another challenge for us, as every week is, but a challenge that we're ready to accept and we're ready to take on with a full head of steam. We just want to get this run game going again. We know it's going to be a brawl, but we're excited about it."
The Raiders were able to execute a multi-dimensional offense against the Kansas City Chiefs helping them notch their first and only win of the season. They could not find that same rhythm when they faced the Rams, but they are hoping to revert to their Week 12 success.
It will come down to execution because there is no doubt the players will be hyped for this match-up.
"It's just that backyard brawl that we're looking forward to, the team right up the road. It's exciting," said Murray. "This is what football is all about, so we're all excited about the opportunity. We're ready to go out there and compete."
Bay Area bragging rights are up for grabs. "I think it's a heated rivalry. Bragging rights for the year," said Brown. "I'm not sure when the Raiders and San Francisco play again after this year, but I think you get the bragging rights for the year and the Oakland fans would really be excited about that."
Watch the game on KTVU FOX 2, listen on 95.7 The GAME and follow along on Raiders.com, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.