49ers report card

A fine defensive performance during their 23-13 loss to the Bears prevents the 49ers from completely flunking Sunday night in Chicago, but not much else does.

QUARTERBACKS: Ken Dorsey was terrible. He was off target from start to finish as he missed open receivers, sailed throws and stalled a lot of drives with weak-armed passes that didn't give their targets much chance. He wasn't mobile enough to avoid the relentless abuse he took from a Chicago defense that came after him with abandon and didn't worry about the rush. He had several potential interceptions dropped, and when the Bears finally did hang onto a pick with four minutes to play in a three-point game, they turned it into a 71-yard touchdown return that clinched the victory. That was a typically bad throw from Dorsey, who practiced all of last week with the first unit due to Tim Rattay's forearm problem but never found any offensive rhythm Sunday. His numbers - 16 of 36 passing for 112 yards and a 41.7 quarterback rating - indicated a quarterback who kept trying but, after a lot of chances, never got it done. Grade: F

RUNNING BACKS: Chicago laughed at the 49ers when they tried to run. And why not? Kevan Barlow wasn't going anywhere. It is now an established trend for Barlow, who sees holes close down quickly and can't seem to break tackles like last year, so he and the running game go nowhere. Barlow had one vintage run for a 16-yard gain on third down that kept a fourth-quarter drive alive. The rest of his evening was all about 17 carries for 40 yards, including several stops behind the line and a lost fumble one play after the Niners had recovered a fumble in Chicago territory. Fullback Fred Beasley had five touches for zero net yards - three carries for one yard rushing and two catches for minus-1 yard. The pass blocking by all backs, including Terry Jackson and Jamal Robertson, was sketchy, and they had a lot of opportunities in protection with Chicago stacking the box and zone blitzing. Grade: F

WIDE RECEIVERS: Brandon Lloyd had five receptions for 63 yards and probably would have had more if Dorsey had put passes closer to him when he was open, and another catch that was overturned by a replay challenge. It goes downhill fast from there as Arnaz Battle's 20-yard catch and Curtis Conway's four-yard grab represented the only other receptions by San Francisco wideouts. There were several dropped passes, the most notable those by Battle and Cedrick Wilson, whose drop ended San Francisco's final drive with 2:34 remaining. Besides Lloyd and the one big play by Battle, the wideouts were nearly invisible. Grade: D

TIGHT ENDS: You can't blame Eric Johnson when they don't throw the ball to him. And why, exactly, weren't the Niners throwing it to him? He was open several times, particularly early in the game. When the Bears realized they didn't have to worry about stopping the run, they started giving him more double coverage. But still. Johnson was the NFL's No. 2 receiver entering the game, even though the Niners were coming off a bye week. He finished with one catch for nine yards. Johnson's backup, Aaron Walker, had a reception before Johnson did (for just four yards). So the net total of tight ends: Two receptions, 13 yards, and not much help in blocking: Grade: D

OFFENSIVE LINE: Right tackle Scott Gragg was abused like he seldom has been during his time with the Niners. Michael Haynes overwhelmed him a couple of times. The line struggled all day to keep the Bears off Dorsey, who was either hit, hurried or leveled on almost half of his 36 throws while being sacked three times. Gragg wasn't the only one to have problems, as Chicago blitzed relentlessly because it didn't respect the run. That was part of this unit's fault, too, because the Bears pushed around San Francisco up front in that area and the running game went nowhere. Kind of hard to figure that, because Chicago ranked No. 29 in rushing defense entering the game. Or maybe it's easy to figure, with the way the 49ers played. Grade: F

DEFENSIVE LINE: If this really was Bryant Young's last time playing in his hometown, he certainly made it memorable with a game-high 10 tackles - several behind the line - to go with his first two sacks of the year, a fumble recovery and general havoc in all areas along the trenches. Anthony Adams also played with inspired effort and had seven tackles and a forced fumble. That tackle duo displayed both power and quickness in the interior that was reminiscent of their best work. John Engelberger also had some good pressure from the edge. The Niners weren't getting much of that on the other side from Brandon Whiting before he went down to a possible season-ending knee injury. Tony Brown also made some plays inside and should have got credit for forcing the fumble Dwaine Carpenter returned for a touchdown. There was some good effort defending the run, too, particularly later in the game. Grade: A-

LINEBACKERS: Jamie Winborn continued his sparkplug play that resulted in two sacks and five tackles as he again made his presence felt. So did Derek Smith, returning from a bad ankle injury to make nine stops and look unaffected by an ailment that could linger till the end of the season. Jeff Ulbrich and Brandon Moore - who stripped the ball from Chicago quarterback Craig Krenzel to begin a sequence that led to San Francisco's only touchdown - also were heard from. The Bears got some rushing yards early, but the backers helped plug that the rest of the way: Grade: B

SECONDARY: Shawntae Spencer bit on an out move and was beaten for a 49-yard touchdown reception on Chicago's second play, but he was exceptional in coverage the rest of the way. Safety Tony Parrish was slow getting over to help Spencer on that touchdown play, but he, too, went on to have a strong game with seven tackles. Carpenter's 80-yard fumble return was a game-changer, considering Chicago was on its way to going up 14-0 or 10-0. But Carpenter dropped an interception in the San Francisco end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Bears kicked the go-ahead-to-stay field goal two plays later. Jimmy Williams also dropped an interception, but he also had one of his best games in coverage on the other corner. Ronnie Heard didn't drop his interception, though, grabbing the first pick by a San Francisco defensive back this season - in the seventh game! - to set up a San Francisco field goal. All in all, this was a strong game by a unit that hasn't had many of those this season. After the early touchdown strike to rookie Bernard Berrian, Chicago's receivers - and passing game, for that matter - made no impact. Grade: B

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kudos to Todd Peterson, who drilled a 48-yard field goal to give the 49ers an early lead, then hit a 51-yarder - which was supposed to be out of his range - to give them their final lead at 13-10 nine minutes later. And we mean, Peterson really hit it - the 51-yarder bounced good off the cross bar. He was short on a 50-yarder that could have tied the score in the fourth quarter, but two out of three's not bad at that distance. Andy Lee hit some long punts early but came up short when the Niners really needed him. Punt returner Battle and kick returner Robertson each had one nice return but ended up not doing much collectively on their nine combined returns. The coverage units - solid most of the year - had their first big breakdowns, allowing a 24-yard punt return to R.W. McQuarters and a 73- and 42-yard kickoff returns to Jerry Azumah. The Niners were No. 1 in the NFL entering the game in kickoff coverage. They certainly won't be after this game. Grade: D+

COACHING: The defensive game plan was very effective, and it also adjusted well as the game went along (and the Niners lost yet more players to injuries). Take away the early breakdown in pass coverage, and the Niners would have been in a position to win despite their other inadequacies solely because of their defensive play. The Niners maximized their talents and got good pressure - and kept it there - on Chicago's quarterback and running game. But as good as the defense was, the offense was equally bad. The Niners should have tried to get Eric Johnson involved more in their struggling passing game, because he was getting himself open. It seemed like poor use of the NFL's second-leading receiver. Dorsey and Barlow sabotaged the attack with their poor play, but the offense never really looked like it new where it was going against a Chicago defense that has had its problems this year. When your offense is limited to 162 yards and has only one drive that produces points, you're obviously not calling the right plays. Grade: D

OVERALL: No way the Niners get an 'F' with that kind of defensive effort. But in many ways, this ranks up there with their worst performances this year, and that's saying something, considering what their worst performances have looked like. Let's face it. The 49ers are bad. They were playing a bad Chicago team led by a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, and they still couldn't win. The Niners got everything they could expect from their defense to keep them in the game and give them a chance to win. But their offense played so ridiculously poor that it didn't make a difference. San Francisco can't waste that kind of defensive performance if it expects to win any - that's right, any - more games this season. Grade: D

Niners Digest Top Stories