49ers report card
QUARTERBACKS: If it's not a magic formula, it's a winning formula, and Jeff Garcia has it back again. He was outstanding for the third consecutive week, this time leading the 49ers from behind with a fourth-quarter comeback that was his specialty last year. He threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns against a defense that came after him relentlessly, producing a passer rating over 100 for the third straight week. He put touch on his passes that hadn't been there earlier in the season, and his numbers would have been even better if several passes hadn't been dropped. His lone big mistake was another lost fumble the Eagles turned into a touchdown. Grade: A- RUNNING BACKS: Kevan Barlow took over the game with 154 yards rushing while answering questions about his durability with a career-high 30 carries. He also had 33 yards receiving and scored San Francisco's first and final touchdowns. He continues to miss assignments in pass coverage. Fred Beasley, fresh off his well-deserved Pro Bowl berth, blocked well, and slippery Jamal Robertson averaged 9.8 yards on his four carries while spelling Barlow. Grade: A RECEIVERS: Before Terrell Owens broke his collarbone in the second quarter while making his first - and only - catch, he dropped three passes. Cedrick Wilson also had a drop. Brandon Lloyd, however, made some pretty, leaping catches in key situations - one for a 33-yard touchdown and another in the end zone for a consequential two-point conversion. The 49ers don't win without those plays. Tai Streets also contributed three catches for 46 yards. Grade: B TIGHT ENDS: Jed Weaver continued his steady progression as a threat down the middle with three receptions for 61 yards, including a 30-yarder. He had some big blocks in the running game, too, and Aaron Walker also contributed in that area. Grade: A- OFFENSIVE LINE: Garcia was sacked three times and faced steady pressure, but the line ultimately held up well and wore down Philly's defensive interior. There were some early holding and false-start penalties, and it took the line some time to collect itself after losing Ron Stone, but there weren't any breakdowns or mistakes with the game on the line. Grade: B DEFENSIVE LINE: Bryant Young had a sack and combined with Anthony Adams on another. Chidi Ahanotu and John Engelberger also had sacks as the line made plays in key situations. The pressure wasn't always steady, but they got there when it counted with the game swaying in the balance. There were sporadic results here against the run. Grade: B LINEBACKERS: This unit, which was caught out of position several times, stepped up to make plays in key sequences. Julian Peterson had a sack and combined with Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich for 15 tackles, though that number could have been higher. Grade: B- SECONDARY: Cornerback Rashad Holman was beaten several times, including for the touchdown that sent the game into overtime. Dwaine Carpenter had an interference penalty in the end zone that led to Philly's second touchdown. Mike Rumph also had his struggles in coverage. Ronnie Heard was almost invisible at free safety. But strong safety Tony Parrish was the saving grace here with his standout, game-altering performance, which included two interceptions and a forced fumble that negated a Philadelphia touchdown. His second pick to begin overtime was the game-winning play. Grade: C+ SPECIAL TEAMS: A horrific performance that almost cost the Niners yet another victory. The coverage units were terrible, allowing big returns on kickoffs and Brian Westbrook's 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. Bill LaFleur botched another snap hold that cost the 49ers some early points, and he had a net average of just 11 yards on his four punts, which included a shank that went eight yards. Once again, the return game produced very little. But you can't flunk the special teams when kicker Todd Peterson makes all three of his field goals, including the game winner in overtime. Grade: D- COACHING: The Niners had a nice offensive plan that loosened up Philly with the run and then hit with play-action passing. The Niners also adjusted to injuries to key starters, both on offense during the game and defense before the game. Defensive strategy was hit and miss, but it was good coaching to finally replace LaFleur at holder with backup quarterback Tim Rattay, who had no trouble handling snaps on important kicks later in the game. Grade: B+ OVERALL: The 49ers displayed a lot of heart here, and also a good amount of the ability and talent that often has eluded them on the road this year. Despite some ghastly mistakes, the Niners finally earned their first win of 2003 on the road, in a very hostile environment, against a quality team that entered the afternoon with a nine-game winning streak and was playing for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. There is plenty to be said for that. Grade: A-
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