49ers report card

Handing out grades to the 49ers after their 26-16 loss Saturday to the Washington Redskins showed San Francisco is clearly as good as its 2-12 record:

PASSING OFFENSE: D --- Ken Dorsey made some good throws and did a few nice things at quarterback, but he was undone by his mistakes and ultimately overmatched by a quality Washington defense. He made a superb throw to Brandon Lloyd for a touchdown that tied the score in the first quarter, and was 4 of 6 for 61 yards passing on San Francisco's first drive. But he couldn't continue that early effectiveness, throwing three costly interceptions before the first half was over, the last of which was returned 78 yards for the game-swaying touchdown when the Niners were driving to possibly tie the score before halftime. The other two interceptions were turned into field goals by the Redskins, who hardly needed the help on offense with the way their defense was playing. Dorsey finished 20 of 38 for 206 yards and four interceptions, also completing an 18-yard scoring pass to Curtis Conway. Dorsey was sacked just once, but he faced heavy pressure that made him hurry a lot of throws. Led by Lloyd's four catches for 51 yards, the receivers generally played well and took advantage of their opportunities. Lloyd, however, dropped a pass and couldn't bring down two long sideline fly patters on which the Redskins had good coverage. Eric Johnson had his best game in two months with a game-high eight receptions for 73 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D+ --- The 49ers strayed away from their running at the start, then couldn't really go back to it with any regularity after falling behind. It was hit and miss when the Niners did take some shots on the ground against Washington's third-ranked rushing defense as both Maurice Hicks and Kevan Barlow were able to break some runs, including a 25-yarder by Hicks. But those two backs also were stopped five times behind the line of scrimmage for 16 yards in losses, which ultimately left the 49ers with only 55 net yards rushing on 17 carries by their backs. The run blocking was generally good except for those times when missed assignments allowed the Redskins to shoot the gaps for drive-thwarting stops behind the line.

PASSING DEFENSE: D+ --- The lack of a pass rush allowed a second-tier quarterback, Patrick Ramsey, time to make plays in key situations throughout the game to keep the Redskins in control. The Niners learned that right end Andre Carter wouldn't be available in the morning before the game, and nobody else along the line could pick up the pass-rushing slack. Second-year end Andrew Williams, who started in Carter's place, was nonexistent. The Niners also weren't very effective when they were bringing blitzes. Rod Gardner had six receptions for 111 yards, several times finding open space in the secondary after defensive backs had fallen down. The Redskins converted seven times on third down, getting 11 first downs through the air. Young corners Dwaine Carpenter and Shawntae Spencer made a few plays, but they allowed just as many. Carpenter also missed a tackle on a play Gardner turned into a 21-yard gain to set up Washington's only offensive touchdown.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C+ --- The Redskins finished with 128 yards rushing, but that was mostly a result of continuing hammering on the San Francisco defense. The Redskins had 40 rushing attempts, 35 of them by Clinton Portis, who averaged just 3.1 a carry despite finishing with 110 yards. This was not a bad effort at all by a San Francisco defense that got some very solid efforts up front by tackles Anthony Adams and Bryant Young, who each had six tackles, and left end John Engelberger, who had four. That means the Redskins weren't getting through the line very often. When they did, linebackers Derek Smith (nine tackles) and Jeff Ulbrich (seven) were there to make plays. Saleem Rasheed also had one of his best games with six tackles and a forced fumble that he recovered. Jamie Winborn ran himself out of a few plays, some of them blitzes when ball carriers ran right past him.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B --- As usual, the coverage teams were superb. Cedrick Wilson displayed some spark on returns, taking his lone punt return back 13 yards and a kickoff back 36 yards. He averaged 25.5 yards on four kickoff returns. This was not one of punter Andy Lee's best days, but he still had a solid 37.6 net despite averaging just 38.7 yards on his seven kicks. The Niners also got a big punt block from rookie Keith Lewis that was turned into a safety and gave them an opportunity to get back in the game.

COACHING: C --- The 49ers had a solid plan for attacking a Washington defense that has very few holes. The Niners went to the air and tried to take advantage of one-on-one coverage opportunities on the edges. But ultimately, their players just couldn't make plays when put in that position. The Niners should have done a better job stopping Washington's 29th-ranked defense between the 20-yard lines. But there were good defensive calls in the red zone to limit the Redskins to field goals. The Niners needed to find ways to put better pressure on the opposing quarterback to win, but that has been a problem all season – one that evidently won't get solved in 2004.

OVERALL: D+ --- The 49ers simply were beaten by a better team. They contributed to their own demise with costly turnovers, another recurring problem this season, but take away Washington's momentous second-quarter touchdown return, and San Francisco might have been in this one until the end. But you can't take that play away, of course, and it made the second half almost irrelevant with the Niners struggling to find answers on offense. At this point in the season, Washington probably is better than its record, and the Niners clearly are as good as theirs.

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