A lot of fun/weird things happened in the National Football League on Sunday, which is why the sport, for its many flaws, still owns the sports business in this country.
On a day when NFL Red Zone got whiplash, when Odell Beckham and Graham Gano and Greg Joseph and Linval Joseph and Isaiah Crowell and Pat Shurmur and Sean McVay and Jason Garrett and Trent Dilfer and Blake Bortles and Patrick Mahomes all grabbed your brains and faces for different reasons, the Raiders and 49ers did remarkably little to leave an imprint anywhere except at the bottom of their separate corners of the standings block.
They lost comfortably to flawed teams before acres of empty seats, and here were the highlights:
— Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw an interception on first-and-goal from the Los Angeles Chargers‘ 1-yard line, advancing his rep as the best thing that ever happened to the defensive secondary. He’s on a pace to be the first quarterback to average two picks per game since Vinny Testaverde did it in 1988 for a 5-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
— Cardinals rookie Josh Rosen threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to a scandalously uncovered Christian Kirk on Arizona’s first — and only — offensive play.
The rest of both games were turgid slogs in the sun that served only to remind the winners that they can’t be bad all the time and the losers that bottom has not yet been reached, even though they can see it from where they are.
Raiders fans suspected this would be their future the day Jon Gruden traded edge rusher Khalil Mack, but doubled down on the feeling when he decided as Pete Carroll did on a much larger stage that Marshawn Lynch cannot be trusted to get one tough yard when all he’s ever done his entire career is get tough yards, most recently a week ago.
And 49ers fans suspected this would be their future when the idealized version of Jimmy Garoppolo stepped wrong in Kansas City. Oh, they tried to take the cheerful road about C.J. Beathard and his toughness and how the team could thrive with him as quarterback when in fact Beathard’s insistence on defying the pressures of the pocket and his essential role as a backup quarterback on a rebuilding team leads to games like Sunday’s.
Either way, neither team was competitive in seemingly winnable games, and they certainly weren’t memorable or even conversation-worthy.
And while losing is the worst thing, losing and not covering only makes it worse, and not being interesting in defeat is the condiment that ruins the entire meal.
Sunday was, in short, a thoroughly wasted day in what is looking more and more like a wasted year for the NFL’s designated representatives in our area. Neither team escaped the orbit of tedium, and both head on the road for what we can only imagine will be more of the same. The 49ers face a doubly angry Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, while the Raiders go to London to play Seattle and plan to maximize jet lag by staying in the Bay Area through Thursday.
In other words, our part of the NFL diaspora is an indistinct and spreading gray smear through four weeks, and it isn’t likely to get much better in the near term. Failure to succeed happens every year to 20 teams, 31 if you’re the win-or-die type, but failure to entertain is a lot harder to endure. Whatever else can be said about the 49ers and Raiders after five weeks, at least they haven’t been captivating.