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Aldon Smith, 49ers pass rush will be key on Sunday vs. Raiders

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The San Francisco 49ers head to Oakland on Sunday, and a big key will be how much pressure they can put on Derek Carr. He has managed to avoid getting sacked frequently, but pressure has led him to make some bad decisions quickly. Avoiding a sack is great, but it does not exactly help matters when you are unable to then connect with open receivers. If the 49ers can bring pressure, they could flip this thing pretty quickly.

The 49ers pass rush struggled through the first nine games. Aaron Lynch and Ray McDonald were getting pressure on the quarterback, but the 49ers were unable to get enough consistent pressure. The return of Aldon Smith has started to remedy that. Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus had this interesting stat:

Smith had a big first game, getting six quarterback hurries. In his second game, he got on the board with two sacks. Last week against Seattle, he struggled to get at Russell Wilson. And yet, even when he is not getting pressure on the quarterback, he is opening the door for others. Ray McDonald had a couple sacks during those first two games, and one against Washington came almost entirely due to Aldon Smith. The 49ers ran a stunt with Smith, and as he came over, Washington sent a second man to him, opening a huge hole for McDonald, resulting in a sack of Robert Griffin III. Against the Giants, Smith was double-teamed quite a bit, and even found himself triple-teamed a couple times. That kind of stuff opens the door for the other pass rushers to get some heat on the quarterback.

Even as the 49ers offense struggles, the defense has been doing a solid job most weeks. Against the Raiders, the best chance to put the offense in a better position will be to get consistent pressure on Derek Carr. The Raiders will have Latavius Murray back in the lineup, and I have to think they will do whatever they can to establish the run. I don't expect a wildly unbalanced run/pass ratio like what the Jets did last week, but I think we see the Raiders work to establish Murray and take the pressure off Carr.