This weekend, quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick headed in opposite directions. Kaepernick flew east to guide the 49ers through the ultimate trap game in Tampa on Sunday morning. Smith flew west to the Bay Area to attempt to keep the Kansas City Chiefs in division contention on Sunday afternoon.
Opposite directions: That was the way many predicted the onetime mentor and protege were heading on their career paths. Jim Harbaugh made the quarterback switch last November based on the belief that Kaepernick had nothing but upside and Smith couldn’t direct a dynamic and explosive offense.
But with Smith returning to the area that he called home for eight years – and where he still maintains a home – it’s worth revisiting that concept.
Smith is unlikely to be welcomed warmly – not on that side of the bay, where his only significant connection is that his wife, Elizabeth, was a one-time Raiderette, and not by a Raiders crowd bitter and exasperated by yet another losing season. But there is certainly a large segment of the Bay Area population that appreciates Smith for the perseverance and grace he showed through eight tumultuous years with the 49ers.
There’s another group that couldn’t wait to get Smith out of town, long before Kaepernick arrived as a possible replacement. The Smith detractors had visions of a dynamic offense to complement the team’s elite defense. They hated short passes, loathed an overreliance on the running game and detested so many field goals. That group blamed Smith for the restrained approach and was sure that under Kaepernick the 49ers would become explosive and attacking.
That hasn’t happened. The 49ers, as we’ve seen in both victories (Seattle) and losses (Carolina) this season, are still overly reliant on field goals. They are still at their best when they depend on the run. Kaepernick, like Smith, often looks underneath for receivers and frequently throws the ball away to get out of trouble.
And Smith’s and Kaepernick’s statistics are eerily similar. Both are in the mid-80s in overall quarterback ranking and the high 50s in completion percentage. Both have been sacked 32 times. Smith, who has won one more game as a starter than Kaepernick, has averaged more yards per game (221 to 191.3), thrown for more yards (2,873 to 2,487), has more touchdown passes (18 to 16) and fewer interceptions (6 to 8).
–Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle
Terrelle Pryor remains committed to winning back his job as Oakland’s starting quarterback, even though the Raiders only appear willing to use him in spot situations the remainder of the season.
Talking extensively for the first time in more than three weeks, Pryor said he remains supportive of coach Dennis Allen’s decision to stick with undrafted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin as Oakland’s starter even though the knee injury that originally sidelined Pryor has healed.
”That’s coach Allen’s deal,” Pryor said. ”Whatever his decision is, that’s what it was. I could sit here and say I disagree and this and that but at the end of the day he’s our leader and he’s the one that has to make those tough decisions. He made it and that’s what it is, you know?”
Pryor has made only one brief appearance since playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament against the New York Giants on Nov. 10, and it was a hotly debated one at that.
He quarterbacked the offense for one series in the first half and drove the Raiders down for a field goal. Then Pryor went back to the bench for the rest of the game, even though offensive coordinator Greg Olson said earlier this week the move was meant to provide a spark to the running game.
McGloin threw a costly interception on his first drive back, then Oakland had a punt blocked for a touchdown on its ensuing possession.
Pryor had already left the locker room when reporters were allowed in after the game, and he avoided interview requests earlier this week before talking for nearly 10 minutes while standing in front of his locker.
The 24-year-old said he regrets trying to play through the knee injury, which he suffered a week prior to the Giants game. He also said he made a mistake in blaming his performance against New York on the injured knee.
The knee is healed now and has been for about two weeks, according to Pryor.
Still, he spends the majority of his Sundays on the sideline while McGloin runs the offense.
”I don’t call it lost a job,” Pryor said. ”I got hurt, he came in a played well. I don’t call it (losing) my job. But, you know, did he end up playing well and he’s helping the team? However you want to call it.”
–Michael Wagaman, Associated Press
It was the shot heard throughout Sacramento that silenced an entire city.
Demetrious Johnson with one right hand solidified his standing as the UFC flyweight champion while ending his rivalry with Joseph Benavidez in one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring performances the 125-pound division has ever seen.
The first fight between Johnson and Benavidez was as close as a bout could be with the final scores returning a split decision between the competitors. That night ended with Johnson’s hand raised as the first-ever UFC flyweight champion.
The defeat only motivated Benavidez, who began working with coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig not long after the first fight with Johnson, while vowing to get back to another title shot. Three fights, three wins and two knockouts later and Benavidez got his wish.
The only problem was Johnson wasn’t sitting back and just waiting for Benavidez to return — he went out and twice defended his belt. His recent win over John Moraga was at the time the crowning achievement of Johnson’s reign, but that all changed after what transpired on Saturday night in Sacramento.
As the two fighters met in the center of the Octagon, Benavidez immediately tried to set the tone with a few powerful punches and kicks being tossed at the champion. As composed as any fighter in the UFC, Johnson quickly avoided the dangerous strikes and reset for an offensive attack of his own.
Just as the two-minute mark in the fight expired, Johnson and Benavidez moved toward the cage as both uncorked punches aimed at each other’s heads. Johnson’s landed with surgical precision, and as his right hand crashed into Benavidez’s jaw, the Team Alpha Male fighter crumbled to the mat.
Johnson jumped on top and quickly dropped four or five more punches, but that was only because referee John McCarthy was behind the fighters when the first one landed that knocked Benavidez out cold. Johnson popped up from the ground and immediately began his celebration as a stunned and shocked crowd sat with their collective jaws on the floor wondering what they just witnessed.
The finish came at 2:08 of the first round. Johnson landed just nine total strikes, but only one mattered when it was over.
Damon Martin, FOXSports.com