49ers report card

A quality defensive effort deserves some credit, but nobody gets unblemished grades after the 49ers' latest fiasco of cover-the-eyes performance.

QUARTERBACKS: As the weeks pass, Tim Rattay looks more and more like part of the problem than the solution. But that could have a lot to do with the fact he faces relentless pressure, has no time to operate and gets little help from his running game. Still, he no longer shows the poise and confidence in the pocket he displayed earlier in the season, and his throws don't have the consistent zip and accuracy they once did. Even though they came on blind-side hits, he lost two fumbles, one of them that was turned into a game-clinching touchdown. His longest completion went for 22 yards, and despite connecting on 23 of 38 passes, he finished with just 181 yards passing and had problems keeping drives alive. Grade: D-

RUNNING BACKS: Twelve Kevan Barlow touches equaled 20 net yards – nine rushes for 20 yards and three receptions for zero yards. That's pathetic, and that's why Barlow found himself on the bench most of the second half. Maurice Hicks provided some spark with 46 yards rushing and 33 receiving, but his fourth-quarter fumble quickly allowed the Dolphins to resume command after the 49ers had taken their first lead. Grade: D-

RECEIVERS: They couldn't get open against Miami's quality cornerbacks and that hurt with Rattay's lack of time to throw. Cedrick Wilson broke loose for a few a big plays and finished with five catches for 59 yards, but Brandon Lloyd's two receptions went for just 15 yards. The rest of the receivers all but disappeared. Rashaun Woods, who took some snaps away from Lloyd, looked lost when he was out there and dropped a third-down pass. Grade: D

TIGHT ENDS: Eric Johnson had a game-high seven receptions, and a few of them were highlight-reel quality. There were other times he was open, too. Johnson continues to be one of the bright spots in a dark season. The blocking here was no help, but that was something that was going around Sunday. Grade: C+

OFFENSIVE LINE: This unit was tossed around like a rag doll. Five different Miami defensive linemen had sacks, with Jason Taylor abusing San Francisco's tackles for three of them. This unit was overpowered, pushed back and continues to regress instead of get better. The run blocking also wasn't up to par as the Niners averaged just 3.2 a carry, a figure that was more than three yards only because of Rattay's nine-yard scramble. This unit gets the lowest grade possible on the ‘F' scale. Grade: F

DEFENSIVE LINE: The big guys up front absolutely stuffed Miami's run as the Dolphins gained just 49 yards on 26 yards. Bryant Young and Anthony Adams made plays behind the line of scrimmage, but Adams had an unnecessary roughness penalty. There was decent pressure all day on Miami quarterback A.J. Feeley, whom the 49ers almost knocked out of the game a couple of times. But Feeley needed to be sacked more often than just hit – this unit had zero sacks. Grade: B-

LINEBACKERS: Derek Smith had a game-high nine tackles, had the 49ers' only sack, tipped a pass that was intercepted and returned a fumble 46 yards for San Francisco's only touchdown until the game's final minute. What more can you ask? This unit had one of its best days in pass coverage, combining for four passes defensed, and certainly did it's part in shutting down Miami's run. A tremendous effort in a losing cause, but no unit can get an unblemised grade after this game. Grade: A-

SECONDARY: Safety Tony Parrish was burned for Miami's first touchdown pass and should have been in position to prevent the second, but he arrived too late. Ronnie Heard had a pass interference call in the end zone and arrived late on some other plays, though he also knocked down two passes. The Niners needed better from their veteran safeties because their inexperienced cornerbacks held up well, with Dwaine Carpenter contributing six tackles and rookie Mike Adams the first interception of his career. The coverage breakdowns were all that prevented the 49ers from recording a dominating defensive performance, and they could have made a difference in the outcome of the game. Grade: D-

SPECIAL TEAMS: After the best game of his career, rookie punter Andy Lee averaged just 37.2 yards a punt with a poor net of 29.2. The faltering punt coverage team also allowed returns of 35 and 20 yards to Wes Welker. Maurice Hicks ran hard on his kickoff returns and produced a few nice returns. Arnaz Battle's three punt returns produced just 11 yards. Grade: D

COACHING: The Niners' aggressive defensive strategy was excellent most of the way, but stumbled when it counted. Why have Andre Carter, ostensibly San Francisco's best pass rusher, covering Miami's leading receiver on a zone blitz in a third-and-goal situation from the 15-yard line? It just doesn't make sense. The decision to sit Barlow and play Hicks probably should have been made sooner. Since the Niners couldn't protect Rattay, they tried to move him around, but that didn't work either. Despite their lack of talent and execution, the Niners simply needed to come up with some better answers on offense. Grade: D-

OVERALL: Another legitimate opportunity at victory wasted. Those opportunities certainly are dwindling quickly. A quality defensive effort prevents this from being a failing grade, but little else does. The 49ers again found a way to lose at home against a team almost as bad as they are, and this awful performance left no doubt that the Niners are the worst team in the NFL. Grade: D-

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