Collins shows off his arm strength

Republicans and Democrats. Cats and dogs.

Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins.

The strikingly opposite styles of the supposedly non-competing, Super Bowl-veteran quarterbacks was the most compelling aspect of the remodeling Raiders' otherwise perfunctory, penalty-plagued, 33-30 exhibition win over the 49ers on Saturday night at two-thirds-full Candlestick Park.

Since Collins signed in May, Oakland coach Norv Turner has been telling anyone with ears that there is no comparison applicable this preseason. Gannon, 38, will start. Collins, 31, will back up.

Yet the play-calling of Turner and his new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on Saturday set up Gannon/Collins - remember, it's not "versus" - as an inevitable comparison. The Raiders called 12 pass plays on their 14-play opening drive, which ended with the first of four Sebastian Janikowski field goals. They called 23 passes in their 32-play first half.

Was that by design?

"Yeah. No. I don't know," Turner said, cryptically, with a smile.

"They were by design," Collins confirmed.

Turner said the 49ers' defense played eight-man fronts that "took away the running game."

"We do need to throw the ball in the preseason," he said.

Gannon completed 9 of 16 passes in his two drives, his first in nearly 10 months since he tore labrum cartilage in his right shoulder and missed the last nine games of 2003. His 69 passing yards included 39 from running-back dashes after catching screen passes. The other 30 yards came on Gannon's familiar assortment of take-what-the-defense-gives, dump-off throws and underneath-coverage curls, out routes and crossing patterns.

Gannon's longest throw traveled 14 yards, to Jerry Porter. But that pass was ruled incomplete because Porter ran out of bounds before he caught the pass.

In all, it was a cameo return of the recently-ended six-year run of Oakland's dink-'n-dunk, West Coast offense.

"I think that people need to understand there are similarities (in the old and current offenses), in the concepts, in reads," Gannon said without his occasional edgy tone. "It's not me learning football all over again."

Still, Collins' second-quarter entrance signaled that Turner's deep-strike passing game was in this offense after all. Collins' first throw was a 13-yard bullet on a Doug Gabriel out route that actually traveled about twice that distance, from the far hash mark to the opposite sideline.

Seven plays later, Collins threw the pass for which the Raiders signed him for three years and $12 million to $15 million. He drilled a javelin-like strike to Gabriel, who was streaking 25 yards down the sideline. The arrow cleared the helmet of beaten 49ers corner Joselio Hanson and was direct enough to get past late-arriving safety Dwaine Carpenter. Gabriel caught the pass in stride and raced into the end zone for an exquisite, 34-yard score.

"My whole approach is that I'm going to do the best that I can," a satisfied Collins said diplomatically. "I thought Rich played really well. Whoever's in there - and it's going to be Rich, unless something happens to him, God forbid - I want to take advantage of the preseason. This is my time, because in the regular season, I'm not going to play a lot."

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