49ers report card

Grading the 49ers after their 21-7 loss to New England in their regular-season finale:

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Ken Dorsey showed a lot of poise against the Patriots as he posted his best statistical game of his career. Dorsey completed 18 of 29 passes for 189 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Also, Dorsey did a fine job of getting rid of the football to avoid sacks. He was sacked just once. But the problem with the 49ers is they don't have enough play-makers on offense. Curtis Conway was the leading receiver with four receptions and rookie Rashaun Woods had a game-high 76 receiving yards, including a 59-yarder in the closing seconds.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D+ -- Kevan Barlow posted his first 100-yard rushing game since the second week of the regular season. However, backup Maurice Hicks fumbled twice, including a game-sealing turnover when the 49ers had driven inside the Patriots 35-yard line in the third quarter of a 14-7 game. Barlow and the offensive line showed some stuff. Barlow gained 103 yards on 25 carries, a performance he hopes the team can build on for next season.

PASS DEFENSE: C+ -- Patriots QB Tom Brady posted a passer rating of 102.9, but this game had plenty of bright spots for the pass defense. The pass rush was non-existent, but the secondary played very well. Rookie CB Shawntae Spencer played a couple of deep passes extremely well, and SS Tony Parrish broke up a would-be TD pass in the closing seconds that prevented the 49ers from giving up the most points in a season in team history.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Patriots RB Corey Dillon had his way against the 49ers with 116 yards on just 14 carries. He became the eighth opponent to rush for 100-plus yards against the 49ers this season. The 49ers' thin defensive line was overmatched against the Patriots' front, and the linebackers had difficult times getting off blocks.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Rookie P Andy Lee finished the season strong, averaging 42.8 yards on five punts. More impressive, he had an outstanding 41.2 net average. However, K Todd Peterson missed a field-goal attempt from 39 yards that would have given the 49ers a 10-point lead in the first half. It was his first miss from inside 45 yards this season.

COACHING: C+ -- Coach Dennis Erickson was second-guessed for running out the clock at the end of the half in a 7-7 game, but he knows his team well. He realized it was more likely that they would commit a turnover in the closing minute of the half rather than generate any points. Of course, when a team has nothing to lose, you'd like to see it play without fear. But the 49ers seemed well prepared to handle the Patriots' complex defense.

OVERALL: C --- At least the 49ers didn't end this dismal season with another stinker. They actually made a game of it on the road against an elite opponent that was forced to use its top players much longer than the Patriots would have liked. Typical mistakes and turnovers doomed the 49ers yet again, and the undermanned defense again was worn down, but this was a respectable effort in a season that didn't offer many.

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