49ers report card
QUARTERBACKS: Tim Rattay was on his way to another splendid performance as he stood poised in the pocket and picked apart the New York secondary in the first half, spreading the ball around to different receivers and beating the Jets for big plays when they attempted to blitz. Rattay's 18 for 28, 286-yard performance included a few dropped passes from receivers and came against increasing pressure throughout the second half. Rattay made very few poor throws or decisions, but his one significant mistake was colossal. Attempting to dump off a pass quickly as protection broke down around him in the final minutes of a one-point game, Rattay fired a no-look pass right into the arms of New York linebacker Jonathan Vilma to end San Francisco's hopes at victory. But Rattay was the primary reason the 49ers were hanging around late in the fourth quarter with a chance to do that in the first place. Grade: B RUNNING BACKS: Kevan Barlow was better this time, and he had his best game in a month with 79 yards on 21 carries. He exploded through holes and ran with authority at times, but he wasn't always consistent in that regard. He also hesitated following blockers and avoided contact a few times, leaving him with some mixed results. Fred Beasley had one of his best games of the season, slamming into defenders whether he was carrying the ball or not. Grade: C+ WIDE RECEIVERS: Brandon Lloyd finally had his first breakout performance of the season with a game-high six receptions for 93 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown grab when he slipped behind the New York secondary. But he also dropped a pass that helped stymie a second-half drive. Cedrick Wilson had a 29-yard play among his three receptions, and Arnaz Battle charged into the mix with a 65-yard catch-and-run that set up a touchdown. Grade: B OFFENSIVE LINE: The run blocking was much improved this game as the line seemed to settle into a pattern of consistency. There still were problems protecting Rattay, and that resulted in sacks that twice ended second-half possessions when the Niners were looking to extend their lead and, then, get it back. A still banged-up Kwame Harris whiffed again at a key moment, allowing John Abraham to fly past him for a pivotal fourth-quarter sack. Harris held up OK, however, when he was forced to remain in the game after Justin Smiley was hurt, forcing Kyle Kosier back to right guard. The Niners seemed to be better along the line with that configuration. Grade: C TIGHT END: Welcome to double-coverage, Eric Johnson. The NFL leader in receptions entering the game, Johnson finally received the extra attention he hadn't been getting in previous weeks, which opened things for San Francisco's receivers but left him with considerably less room to roam. He still was good for four receptions, though none of them went for more than 10 yards. He also dropped a pass he should have caught. Grade: C DEFENSIVE LINE: John Engelberger, still nursing an abdominal strain, put some good, consistent pressure on Jets quarterback Chad Pennington and he also had five tackles. But there was no pressure coming from anywhere else on the San Francisco defensive line - particularly with the game on the line in the second half - and the 49ers once again finished without a sack. That lack of pressure hurt the Niners as the Jets were able to rally in the second half from an early two-touchdown deficit. The line played the run well in the first half but wore down a little after halftime as the New York offense spent a lot of time on the field. Tackles Anthony Adams and Bryant Young did a good job absorbing blockers up front, but nobody else on this unit could take advantage of that. Grade: C- LINEBACKERS: Jamie Winborn took a star turn with a game-high 13 tackles, and he made several plays that thwarted the New York offense, particularly in the early going. Brandon Moore had an admirable performance in his first start in place of Julian Peterson, finishing with eight tackles and being where he was supposed to be most of the time. Jeff Ulbrich wasn't as effective as he had been in recent games, and that allowed the Jets to do some things up the middle. The linebackers also were very inconsistent in pass defense, missing their assigned drops on third down and allowing open spaces for the Jets to keep several drives alive. New York tight ends and running backs were able to slip free for key catches at opportune times, and this was a steady problem as the 49ers continued to adjust to the loss of starters Peterson and Derek Smith. Grade: C SECONDARY: Jimmy Williams stepped up as the third cornerback as he seldom has previously this season, knocking down a third-down pass in a key situation to give the Niners another shot at victory late in the game. He also had five tackles. Safety Tony Parrish set the tone with some big hits early, but he again took some bad angles later in the game and continues to be off his All-Pro form of the past two years. Safety Ronnie Heard again was an effective tackler (seven tackles) but didn't make much impact in coverage. Starting cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Ahmed Plummer combined for 13 tackles and, while Jets receivers were able to slip free for the occasional big reception, it never killed the 49ers. But some of those plays certainly didn't help them, either. Grade: C SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Andy Lee was having another solid day before his last kick sailed into the New York end zone for a net of 15 yards. The Niners got nothing going in the return game against New York coverage teams that had been vulnerable before this year. The San Francisco coverage teams allowed a 40-yard return on the opening kickoff and a 26-yard punt return, but there were no other breakdowns. Grade: C COACHING: The Niners had a great game plan both offensively and defensively, spreading the field on offense to start the game and forcing punts on New York's first four offensive series with some aggressive, challenging play. But then what happened? The Niners allowed the Jets to make all the adjustments at halftime. It's true that coaches again were let down by the performance of their players, but the decision for a reverse handoff when the 49ers had already rolled into field-goal range late in the game was a bad one. Why call that risky play when you're already in four-down territory in a one-point game? If it works, maybe it's a big play, and the coaches get a pat on the back. Instead, it backfired, and they must take the blame since it knocked the 49ers out of field-goal range. Grade: C- OVERALL: This by far was San Francisco's best first half of the season, and the banged-up Niners deserve a lot of credit for the way they took it to an undefeated New York team on the road in the first half. But a huge victory was there to be had, and the Niners let it slip away by allowing the Jets to dictate the game in the second half. That's the difference between the Niners and teams like New York these days - the Jets knew they were the better team, and they came out and took it away from San Francisco. To progress as a team, the Niners can't let that happen after they assume command in games. This was a respectable road showing against a good team that is going places, but the bottom line is the Niners left with another disappointing loss that leaves them 1-5 entering their bye week: Grade: C
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