Grading the NFC West: Week 9

Handing out grades to the 49ers and their three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 9 games.


49ers report card: San Francisco 19, Washington 11


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- The Niners finished with only 200 yards of passing offense, but again Alex Smith made the throws when he had to, including a feathered strike on a 30-yarder to rookie fullback Bruce Miller for the first touchown of the seventh-round draft pick's career. Smith was consistently sharp while completing 17 of 24 passes, and his numbers would have been better without dropped passes by Frank Gore and Vernon Davis that could have netted Smith another 60 yards. Smith was once again turnover free and managed to hang onto the ball while getting walloped on a sack in the first quarter by rookie Ryan Kerrigan. He finished the game with a passer rating of 109.7, moving Smith up to sixth among the NFL's top QBs with a season rating of 97.3.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Can anyone stop Frank Gore? He set a franchise record with his fifth consecutive 100-yard plus running game, churning for 107 yards on 19 carries. Gore ran over Washington defenders for a 12-yard gain up the middle on San Francisco's first offensive play, later broke off a 27-yard run and set the tone with 65 yards rushing on seven carries in the first half. Gore now needs 174 yards to become the team's all-time rushing leader. The blocking up front was again instrumental in a solid running game, and rookie Kendall Hunter complemented Gore with 25 yards on the ground.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The 49ers put a lid on Redskins quarterback John Beck, whose longest pass completion was only 17 yards, with it coming on a broken play on a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage. Despite the fact Washington trailed for most of the game, the Redskins could not get anything going down the field and had to settle for underneath routes. Rookie running back Roy Helu set a rookie franchise record with 14 receptions, but he only averaged 7.5 yards a catch. The pressure on Beck also was good despite him being sacked only once. He often had to hurry his throws and did not have time to spot open receivers on several occasions. The 49ers got their hands on six of Beck's passes, increasing their NFL lead to 60 in that that category at midseason. Free safety Dashon Goldson had an interception that led to San Francisco's first points.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Just another day at the office for the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense, even though the Redskins got off to a good start when Helu broke off a 16-yard run over the right side on the game's first play from scrimmage. Helu had 35 yards rushing in the first quarter and appeared to have a shot at ending San Francisco's NFL-leading streak of games not allowing a 100-yard rusher. Nothing doing. He had just six more yards rushing the rest of the afternoon as the Redskins were stuffed on the ground, gaining just 52 yards and averaging 3.5 yards on 15 carries. The 49ers made an adjustment by shoring up their left side after Washington decided to run at LDE Ricky Jean Francois, who was starting for the injured Ray McDonald. Middle linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman were again outstanding, combining for 21 tackles, 13 of them by Willis, who also forced two fumbles that were recovered by the 49ers.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- David Akers with his 52-yard field goal became the only 49ers kicker to boot four 50-yard plus field goals in a season. He has not missed this season from that distance or beyond. Andy Lee continued his fine punting by dropping two punts inside the 20 and booming one 61-yarder. The coverage teams again performed at their usual high standard, and Ted Ginn Jr. outgained the Redskins 47-0 in yardage on punt returns.

COACHING: A -- It was another terrific offensive game plan that emphasized the run and had just enough passing. The defensive coaches' adjustment after the first quarter helped shut off the Redskins' run game. The 49ers were in complete control after building a 13-0 lead in the second quarter, and from that point San Francisco seemed content to just play out the game, hold onto its lead – which increased to 19-3 by the fourth quarter – and then just get out of town with its sixth consecutive victory. It could have been flashier and more one-sided had the Niners not put on the breaks offensively and gone soft on defense during Washington's late touchdown drive, but San Francisco was never in danger of losing this game at a tough road venue, and the team's coaching staff deserves tons of credit for guiding the 49ers to a sparkling 7-1 record at midseason after a fourth consecutive victory this season in the Eastern time zone.


Cardinals report card: Arizona 19, St. Louis 13 (OT)


PASSING OFFENSE: C -- John Skelton didn't ignite a quarterback controversy in his first start of the season but he didn't stink, either. Skelton passed for 222 yards and had a touchdown. He didn't commit a turnover, even though his protection was shaky. Skelton was sacked three times while completing 20 of 35 passes and finishing with a passer rating of 85.7.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Two scrambles by Skelton netted 28 yards, which makes the final numbers (17 attempts, 70 yards) look better than they were. The offensive line was dominated in the first half, and Beanie Wells doesn't look like himself, finishing with just 20 yards rushing on 10 carries.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed 23 of 36 passes but he was sacked four times and didn't throw for a touchdown. Cornerback Patrick Peterson had two more penalties, however, giving him nine for the year.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Steven Jackson gained 130 yards on 29 carries, but at least the Cardinals made him work for it. The Rams didn't score a touchdown, and the Cardinals stopped Jackson on key third and fourth downs late in the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Cardinals don't win without two great plays late. Calais Campbell blocked a field goal at the end of regulation, and Patrick Peterson returned a punt 99 yards for a touchdown in overtime. Punter Dave Zastudil's net average was 42, and kicker Jay Feely has made seven consecutive field goals.

COACHING: B -- Sure, the victory came against the Rams, but at least it came. The defense appears to be getting the hang of coordinator Ray Horton's system. Offensively, well, things weren't any better. But at least everyone played hard.


Rams report card: Arizona 19, St. Louis 13 (OT)


PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- QB Sam Bradford was a little off on some throws in his first game since suffering a high ankle sprain Oct. 16 against Green Bay. However, he did complete 23 of 36 passes for 255 yards, but was sacked four times, had no touchdown passes and was intercepted once for a passer rating of 73.3. WR Brandon Lloyd had the longest completion of the game for 26 yards and caught five passes for 80 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- RB Steven Jackson had his second consecutive 100-yard game, rushing for 130 yards on 29 carries. However, some short-yardage failures kept the Rams from extending drives with both Jackson and FB Brit Miller. Jackson had 14 attempts of two yards or less including four carries that went for negative yardage.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Overall, the pass defense was solid, limiting WR Larry Fitzgerald to 43 yards on four catches and getting good pressure on QB John Skelton. The Rams had four sacks, one of which resulted in as safety, and another pressure created an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone that also resulted in a safety. However, on the tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Skelton ran for 28 yards on two scrambles, and completed 5-of-6 passes for 47 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Cardinals' ground game went nowhere. RB Beanie Wells gained just 20 yards on 10 attempts and one was for 14 yards; his other nine carries totaled six yards. Wells, Chester Taylor (2-8) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (1-4) combined for just 32 rushing yards on 13 carries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- There was an awful lot of good things on special teams for most of the game, but when a game is lost on a blocked field goal and a 99-yard punt return for a touchdown, it can only be a failure.

COACHING: C -- Coaches always get banged when certain decisions don't work, but the staff had the team in position to outplay the Cardinals, which they did. But the Cardinals' play-makers made plays at critical times and the result was another loss for the Rams.


Seahawks report card: Dallas 23, Seattle 13


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Tarvaris Jackson had his worst game of the year, completing 17 of 30 for 221 yards, no touchdowns and three costly interceptions that Dallas turned into 10 points. Pressure wasn't an issue, as Jackson enjoyed solid pass protection most of the day. He was sacked just once late in the game, and finished with a 40.4 passer rating.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- The Seahawks owned the line of scrimmage, paving the way for Marshawn Lynch to run for 135 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. Lynch averaged 5.9 yards per carry. It's the first time Lynch rushed for more than 100 yards during a regular-season game for Seattle. Lynch's only other game over the 100-yard mark was a 131-yard performance in the NFC Wild Card game against New Orleans in January. The Seahawks finished with a season-high 162 yards on the ground.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a 112.2 passer rating, completing nine passes of 10 yards or more, and three passes of 30 yards or more. In four games against Seattle, Romo has completed 60 percent of his passes, thrown for 1,055 yards, nine touchdowns and has a 105.9 passer rating.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Seahawks gave up a season-high 163 yards on the ground, allowing a running back to gain at least 100 yards against them for the first time this season. Dallas rookie running back DeMarco Murray finished with 139 yards on 22 carries for a 6.3 yards-per-carry average.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- Rookie defensive back Byron Maxwell was flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for purposely running out of bounds during punt coverage, and Seattle allowed kicker Steven Hauschka's 41-yard field goal to be blocked by Dallas linebacker Anthony Spencer.

COACHING: D -- Head coach Pete Carroll still has not figured out how to get his young team to eliminate the costly penalties and play with more discipline. Also, the Seahawks are not doing the things they need to do in the fourth quarter to win games, something the Seattle head coach will emphasize during the final eight games of the season.


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