49ers report card

Handing out grades to the 49ers after a 42-27 loss to Seattle that characterized the inconsistent and turbulent nature of San Francisco's season:

QUARTERBACKS: Returning from the new forearm injury that kept him out of last week's game against Chicago, Tim Rattay was mostly splendid directing an offense that had been shut out by Seattle six weeks before. He twice put San Francisco into the lead with touchdown passes and had good, consistent success against a secondary that had thwarted Ken Dorsey in the previous meeting. But then Rattay threw the one fourth-quarter pass that mattered more than any other - an interception that was returned for a touchdown that provided Seattle's final margin of victory. That's three times already this season that Rattay has thrown a decisive fourth-quarter interception when the 49ers were in position to pull out a victory if he could have led them to the opposing end zone one more time. Grade: C+

RUNNING BACKS: Kevan Barlow ran hard and hit the holes with more determination this time, but he still had a few moments when he was indecisive in the backfield while holes closed down quickly. He looked good getting into the end zone to give San Francisco its first opening-drive touchdown of the season. The pass blocking here was adequate, but the Niners never really did establish a consistent running game, finishing with just 74 yards rushing and a 3.5 average for their 21 carries. Grade: C-

WIDE RECEIVERS: Brandon Lloyd had four receptions for 75 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown grab when he snuck behind the Seattle secondary. He also dropped an early pass, but seems to be finding new ways to get himself open. Curtis Conway displayed tremendous effort to get into the end zone on a 28-yard catch-and-run. Cedrick Wilson also picked up some nice chunks of yardage on his three receptions. San Francisco wide receivers averaged an impressive 16.3 yards on their 11 receptions and accounted for two of the Niners' three touchdowns. Grade: B+

TIGHT ENDS: With Rattay back behind center, Eric Johnson was back to being a focal part of the offense, leading the Niners with five receptions for 54 yards. He was open a few other times, too, when Rattay couldn't get him the ball. Aaron Walker caught just one pass, but he also was open a few times as the Niners found some success with two tight-end formations. Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE: The line played better this game, perhaps as well as it is capable of playing, but that's not really saying much. Rattay was sacked three times and hurried on other occasions, but he generally had time to operate efficiently. There weren't many openings for the running game, as usual, but this was an improved effort against a front seven that manhandled the San Francisco line last time. Grade: C-

DEFENSIVE LINE: There was some good pressure early on Matt Hasselbeck, but it evaporated in the second half when the Seattle quarterback wasn't sacked after being dropped three times before halftime. John Engelberger and Anthony Adams both got in on sacks, and Adams, Bryant Young and Tony Brown all had their moments up front. But there was big openings for the Seattle running game at key sequences in the second half, and that played a big part in the outcome of the game. This unit simply seemed to get worn down, and it couldn't respond with the game on the line. Grade: Grade D+

LINEBACKERS: Derek Smith (11 tackles, half a sack), Jamie Winborn (seven tackles, one sack, two passes defensed) and Jeff Ulbrich (seven tackles) each made a lot of plays all over the field. But it was ultimately an inconsistent effort. Forced to respect Seattle's play-action passing, this unit often didn't drop into coverage quickly enough to give much-needed help against the Seahawks' underneath passing in key situations. Seattle converted nine of 14 third-down situations, and several of those were because these guys couldn't make a stop behind the first-down marker. Shaun Alexander rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns - the Seahawks had 184 yards rushing and 453 overall - and the linebackers have to answer for that. Grade C-

SECONDARY: The good news first: Rookie Shawntae Spencer again was solid at right cornerback. The rest of the secondary can be singled out for at least one - and usually more - egregious error. Safety Ronnie Heard took a bad angle and was burned by Darrell Jackson for Seattle's first touchdown. Jackson streaked past nickel back Joselio Hanson for a 39-yard score late in the third quarter to give Seattle the lead for good. Safety Tony Parrish bounced off tackle attempts and did little in coverage. And left cornerback Jimmy Williams allowed Koren Robinson to turn a short flat pattern into a 25-yard touchdown reception by missing a one-on-one tackle. Those were the blown plays that stood out, but there were others. The 49ers simply can't - and won't - win with this kind of play in the secondary, particular against an opponent such as Seattle. Grade: F

SPECIAL TEAMS: Arnaz Battle's 27-yard punt return set up San Francisco's first touchown. Maurice Hicks displayed some nice explosion returning kickoffs - including a 35-yarder - but he made one huge mistake when he misplayed a kickoff after Seattle had tied the game in the second quarter, forcing the Niners to start inside their one-yard line. That gaffe eventually led to a Seattle touchdown that put the Seahawks back in command. Todd Peterson was true on two routine field goals. Andy Lee had a 42.5 average on his six punts and put three inside the 20, but he also had a 27-yarder. After slipping up last week against Chicago, the coverage units were again solid. Grade: C+

COACHING: The Niners moved the ball well and put up 27 points against a team that had shut them out six weeks ago. The offensive game plan was solid, but the Niners needed to come up with better plays on third down (just 3-of-11 converted) to keep matching scores with Seattle. The Niners should have taken another shot at the end zone, too, with seven seconds remaining before halftime. At the Seattle 9-yard line, there was plenty of time to take a quick strike or have Rattay throw the ball away. The defensive plan left plenty to be desired, putting defensive backs in one-on-one situations where they easily were exposed. That isn't all the coaches' fault. The 49ers also played with genuine emotion and heart against an opponent that clearly is superior, and it's the coaches that keep this floundering team playing hard. Grade: C+

OVERALL: Another chance to win. Another detailed list of reasons why the Niners couldn't. With Rattay back, the Niners got their offense rolling again, but 27 points wasn't nearly enough because San Francisco couldn't put together a good offensive effort with a similar performance by a defense that has been stout and had kept the Niners in the game the week before. But that's the thing about the 2004 Niners - if it's not one thing, it's another. And those things have led to a 1-7 record at midseason after another loss that characterized San Francisco's tumultuous season. Grade: D+

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