49ers report card

Handing out another set of unsatisfactory grades – and that's being kind – to the 49ers after their unsightly 17-9 loss to the Chicago Bears:

RUSHING OFFENSE: If there was anything good to say about this offensive effort by the 49ers, it was that they had occasional success running the football against a stellar defense that knew what was coming and loaded the box on every play. But there were few holes opened for Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore, who got most of their yards on their own. It took Barlow 24 carries to get his 58 yards rushing, and Gore was able to slip away from the attacking Chicago defense for 60 yards on 15 carries. While blocking up front created a few cracks, it was mostly poor throughout the afternoon. And fullback Fred Beasley was having a bad game before he was hurt, often missing defenders as the lead blocker. When the 49ers needed the tough yards in tight situations, they couldn't get them. As it was, San Francisco averaged 2.9 yards on its 46 carries. This grade is this high mainly because Barlow and Gore worked hard to get something out of nothing with the odds – and the opposing defense – stacked against them. Grade: C

PASSING OFFENSE: It's difficult to grade a passing game when the conditions are as poor as they were on this frenetically windy afternoon, but just the same, the 49ers deserve the lowest marks possible for their record-setting ineptitude. Cody Pickett couldn't handle the blowing crosswinds, and he's fortunate he had only one interception in his 13 pass attempts, several of which sailed off the mark even on short throws. His only completion – 28 yards to Brandon Lloyd – might have gone for a touchdown if it hadn't been held up by the wind. Pickett has a strong arm, so there seems to be little excuse for finishing this game with the fewest completions in the 49ers' 60-year history, particularly since Chicago's Kyle Orton was able to complete eight of his 13 passes. Lloyd also dropped Pickett's two best passes of the day – one of them at the goal line – and even if Pickett threw early on the latter play before Lloyd had completed his intended route, the ball still went right through his hands as he avoided contact in traffic. On the plus side, Pickett (who finished with a meager 7.5 passer rating) wasn't sacked and occasionally had some time in the pocket. Like that mattered at all with the way he was throwing the ball. Grade: F

RUSHING DEFENSE: It was slightly better than the numbers might indicate as Chicago's solid running game rumbled for 172 yards on 40 carries, a 4.3 average. The 49ers got tough when it counted several times here, but the Bears were able to get big chunks of yardage when San Francisco's linebackers were unable to disengage blockers and fill the running lanes. The line was stout up front but needed to get better help from the pursuing players behind them. With the passing conditions so poor, the Niners needed to load up against the run even more, just like Chicago's defense did. In summary, the 49ers allowed a third-string running back to cruise for 120 yards and a 5.0 average. A better effort here would have made the game even closer. Grade: D+

PASSING DEFENSE: There's not much to complain about here as the Bears had just two first downs passing and finished with 67 yards through the air. Shawntae Spencer's interception in the end zone was a heads-up play, and the flag he got for pass interference – which set up Chicago's only offensive touchdown – was a blown call by the official. Take away Orton's 31-yard completion to tight end Desmond Clark in the second quarter, and the Bears only had 36 yards passing. A strong performance here, particularly with safety Tony Parrish leaving to injury early in the first quarter, but the conditions obviously had something to do with it. Grade: B

SPECIAL TEAMS: The punt team produced three turnovers, and Andy Lee punted much better in the extreme wind than did his counterpart, Brad Maynard. The 49ers' return game was practically nonexistent, and Rasheed Marshall's muff of a punt early in the fourth quarter led to some insurance points for the Bears. Kicker Joe Nedney was again a star as he drilled three field goals in conditions that at times were nearly impossible. His 52-yard attempt almost made it, too, before being knocked down by wind. That the Bears were able to return that missed kick 108 yards for a game-swaying touchdown – the longest play in NFL history – is a fluke that can't really be blamed on a field-goal unit that's not designed to defend such things. But still, it happened, and it happened here. Grade: C+

COACHING: Some might be wondering what Mike Nolan was doing attempting a 52-yard field goal under those circumstances, but it was the right call, since it came on the last play of the first half and his kicker clearly has shown the ability to make such kicks. That it backfired in such dramatic and consequential fashion was a result of bad fortune, though perhaps the field-goal unit should have been made more aware of a possible return with the conditions so bad. That said, just about everything else in this category was horrible. The 49ers are getting worse instead of better, and they appeared unorganized and poorly-prepared on several occasions. The 49ers had 10 penalties Sunday – that makes 22 in the last two games – and, yes, that can and should be traced back to coaching. The sequence of 12 men in the huddle followed by a delay of game penalty when the offense was on the Chicago 1-yard line was truly pathetic. The dumbed-down offense played it conservative in a tight game, which wasn't a bad thing to do, but the 49ers really needed to mix it up more with short, high-percentage passes. The tough Chicago defense was loading up the box and shooting linebackers into gaps, which left some openings that could have been exploited. But the 49ers never came up with anything out of the mundane to strike at those openings. The better question, perhaps, is if they even tried to look for them. The offensive talent sucks, to be sure, but the coaching on that side also must take some of the fall. Grade: F

OVERALL: Welcome to your latest Niners nightmare. The funny thing is, the 49ers were in this game down to the end and were in a position to actually pull out a victory most of the way. Of course, they didn't, because they aren't good enough – even when an opponent hands them multiple opportunities, including four turnovers. If the offensively-challenged 49ers expect to get any more wins this season, they really need to take advantage of such gifts. Nedney and the defense alone prevent this from being a failing grade. But nothing else does. Grade: D


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