49ers report card
PASSING OFFENSE: F --- Ken Dorsey had a passer rating of 26.7 before he went out in the third quarter with a laceration on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Rookie Cody Pickett – seeing his first NFL action – had an 18.8 passer rating after replacing Dorsey. The pair combined to complete nine of 20 passes for just 109 yards while throwing three interceptions and fumbling twice, one of which was recovered by the Bills. Tight ends Eric Johnson and Steve Bush both had penalties that helped thwart drives. The wide receivers didn't get many opportunities and combined for just five catches. The big highlight was Pickett's 18-yard laser to Cedrick Wilson on 4-and-17 that kept alive San Francisco's lone touchdown drive during fourth-quarter mop-up time. But that pretty play wasn't enough to save the final ugly grade. RUSHING OFFENSE: C --- Some of Kevan Barlow's best work came against Buffalo reserves late in the game, but his effort and effectiveness against a quality defense brought back memories of the way he ran with authority last year. He hit holes and broke tackles as he seldom has this season, and also bulled into the end zone for the touchdown that averted a shutout. He finished with 72 yards on 15 carries, including 37 yards on six carries on the final drive, and also had a solid day in pass protection. Maurice Hicks had just 10 yards on 10 carries and showed why the Niners decided to go back to Barlow as the starter despite Hicks' fine play in recent weeks. The run blocking was not bad but had its usual inconsistent moments. PASSING DEFENSE: D --- Jimmy Williams got the start at left cornerback instead of Dwaine Carpenter and had a career-high 12 tackles. But that was primarily because he had a lot of opportunities after receivers caught balls in front of him. Several of Shawntae Spencer's eight tackles were of the same variety. Buffalo QB Drew Bledsoe had plenty of time to throw and he used it to pick on San Francisco's corners as wideouts Lee Evans and Eric Moulds combined for 16 of Buffalo's 23 receptions. Nickel back Joselio Hanson had his worst game, being burned twice by Evans for touchdowns. San Francisco couldn't get nearly enough pressure from its pass rush to help out its secondary, and the 49ers were jobbed on the one time the blitz did get to Bledsoe. On that play late in the second quarter, Bledsoe was hit as he was going back to pass and the Niners pounced on the loose football. But officials ruled it an incomplete pass instead of a fumble in a highly questionable call. Evans beat Hanson five plays later for the touchdown that gave Buffalo a 17-0 halftime lead that paved the way toward the rout. RUSHING DEFENSE: F --- What rushing defense? To be fair, or at least accurate, San Francisco's defense was worn down by Buffalo's physical, punishing ground game because it had to spend so much time on the field. But after matching blows with Buffalo for a few series early in the game, the Niners were beaten to the punch by the Bills the rest of the way. Buffalo had 226 yards rushing – by far the most allowed by San Francisco this season – and it didn't matter if it was Willis McGahee (102 yards on 15 carries, two TDs) or rookie Shaud Williams (93 on 17, 1 TD) carrying the ball. The Bills averaged a whopping 6.3 yards per carry. That goes to every player on the defense, particularly the guys up front and the linebackers. SPECIAL TEAMS: D --- Arguably the worst game of the year by specialty units that have held up pretty well this season. Andy Lee sailed some nice punts, but he had a net of just 26.8 yards on his five kicks because Nate Clements brought four of them back 61 yards, including a 28-yard return. Buffalo's two kickoff returns went for 36 and 28 yards, giving the Bills continually good field position that their offense really didn't need. The Niners averaged just 13.3 yards on their eight kickoff returns, starting their average drive from the San Francisco 25-yard line. The Bills started their average drive at their 47. COACHING: D --- The Niners keep making the same mistakes. Some of that has to go back to coaching, since NFL teams are supposed to learn from their mistakes. After some early success on defense, the Niners failed to adjust once the Bills went to a no-huddle attack. For one of the few times this season, the players seemed to stop fighting as the game progressed into a hopeless cause. Still, there is only so much blame for this debacle that can be placed on the guys calling plays from the sidelines. OVERALL: F --- It can always get worse in the NFL. But this was bad enough. The Niners were tossed around, embarrassed and humiliated on what was supposed to be Fan Appreciation Day on their home turf. What the few thousand fans who stuck around to the end of this blowout had seen was a 49ers team that was beaten in all phases as badly as it has been in any game this season. Considering some of the Niners' other 60-minute flops this year, that's really saying something.
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