Conservative working for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh so far 

click to enlarge Conservative play-calling worked for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh against the Seahawks, but he will have to dial it up against tougher opponents. (AP file photo) - CONSERVATIVE PLAY-CALLING WORKED FOR 49ERS COACH JIM HARBAUGH AGAINST THE SEAHAWKS, BUT HE WILL HAVE TO DIAL IT UP AGAINST TOUGHER OPPONENTS. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • Conservative play-calling worked for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh against the Seahawks, but he will have to dial it up against tougher opponents. (AP file photo)
  • Conservative play-calling worked for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh against the Seahawks, but he will have to dial it up against tougher opponents. (AP file photo)

The NFL is back with a bang, which of course means it’s open season on coaches, quarterbacks and victories that don’t pass the beauty test.

Jim Harbaugh is already on the defensive about claims his play-calling was too conservative in Sunday’s win against the Seattle Seahawks. This after Harbaugh himself said the 49ers went into a “blue-collar” mode after building a 16-0 halftime lead.

“We’re attacking and I think we’re playing to win, that’s what I live by,” he said.

When asked about repeatedly running the ball on third down against Seattle’s eight-man fronts, Harbaugh scoffed, “If it works, it’s an aggressive play. If you come up short, the easiest thing to do is to say they should have thrown it.”

For the most part, the 49ers came up short because fullback Moran Norris consistently failed to block the attacking defender zeroing in on Frank Gore. But, while the play-calling may have been frighteningly similar to Mike Singletary’s, at least Harbaugh didn’t look like he wanted to tackle Alex Smith after every mistake.

Not that a seven-year NFL veteran should need a bear hug after a touchdown run, but given all the hits Alex has taken, a little sideline love goes a long way.

Now that Harbaugh has what he calls a “better handle” on his team, don’t look for the rookie coach to repeat the strategic miscalculation. As to Alex, although he passed for only 42 yards after intermission, he wasn’t sacked and didn’t turn the ball over.

While the overly conservative, grind-it-out offensive game plan came perilously close to costing the 49ers a victory, the defense is still stout up front and made better by a much improved secondary. If teams keep kicking the ball to Ted Ginn Jr., Harbaugh could become the most hug-happy coach in the league.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are everything I expected them to be: Scary good and frighteningly bad. The defensive line plays like the opposing quarterback just stole their wallets. Unfortunately, the secondary is prone to give it all back.

The “Slash and Smash” backfield of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, along with versatile fullback Marcel Reese, gives the Silver and Black a potent running game.

Too bad Jason Campbell remains one of the NFL’s most exasperatingly erratic quarterbacks. With all the offensive fireworks around the league in Week 1, it’s hard to believe the Raiders won a game with more penalties than pass completions.

After leading the NFL with 148 penalties last year, Oakland was flagged for six false starts and three unnecessary roughness calls among its 15 infractions Monday. Campbell, who was 13 of 22 for 105 yards, connected with his wide receivers only seven times for 66 yards.

Sure, Raiders wide outs have more speed than experience and pass protection remains an ongoing challenge, but the 29-year-old quarterback continues to make a habit of misreading defenses, throwing into traffic or misfiring altogether.

Hue Jackson likes to say he’s building a bully with the Raiders, well, maybe he should mix in an anger management class or two. Jackson might also consider asking Al Davis to make a run at signing free agent David Garrard. Now that the season is under way, the former Pro Bowl quarterback’s $8 million contract is no longer guaranteed. Happy hunting.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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