49ers report card
RUSHING OFFENSE: Kevan Barlow gained only 21 yards on 12 carries before leaving in the third quarter with a concussion, but the blocking in front of him often was very poor as linemen whiffed on their assignments. It got much better once Maurice Hicks took Barlow's place as the line started hitting those assignments and wearing down Seattle's front wall. That left some openings for Hicks, who possesses the darting quickness to shoot through them, as evidenced by his 50-yard dash on his first carry of the season. Hicks' late production – 83 yards on 11 carries, including a 1-yard scoring dive in the final seconds when he showed great balance to get the ball over the goal line – allowed the 49ers to finish with 110 yards and a 4.2 average rushing. But those final numbers belied the fact the Niners couldn't get anything going on the ground earlier when they needed it, which contributed to Seattle taking command of the game. San Francisco had just 17 yards rushing on 12 carries in the first half, and had just 23 yards on the ground before Hicks entered and started lighting it up. Grade: C+ PASSING OFFENSE: Ken Dorsey displayed some real progress as a pocket passer, giving the 49ers the kind of passing threat the team hasn't seen since Tim Rattay still was around. Dorsey showed patience and was adept at going to secondary receivers when the first option wasn't there, and he also put some nice touch on some deep throws to give his targets a chance to go get the ball. His career-high 249 yards on 18 of 29 passing was indicative of his performance. The blocking in front of Dorsey was sporadic, and Kwame Harris had another all-around poor effort, but rookie Adam Snyder acquitted himself well in his first career start at left tackle and there were several times in key sequences when Dorsey had adequate time to scan the field. Brandon Lloyd made three stupendous, acrobatic catches in what may have been the best game of his career, and his 22-yard touchdown catch in the fourth period ended a San Francisco touchdown drought that had reached 15 quarters. Johnnie Morton also had a few nice catches and Jason McAddley contributed a 29-yard catch-and-run as Dorsey spread the ball to nine different receivers. If Dorsey hadn't skipped his final pass in front of Morton on the decisive two-point conversion attempt, there'd be no reason not to call this an ‘A' effort, even though Dorsey was sacked four times. Grade: B+ RUSHING DEFENSE: Take away a 40-yard run by Shaun Alexander – on a play during which cornerback Shawntae Spencer missed a head-on tackle attempt near the line of scrimmage – and the 49ers contained the NFL's leading rusher to 75 yards on his other 23 carries. That's not bad at all, and the 49ers often got to the talented Alexander before he could explode into the second level. The Niners got outstanding effort from their front line after stalwart Bryant Young went down in the second quarter and missed the second half. Linebacker Derek Smith had a game-high eight tackles and – Spencer's gaffe aside – the secondary was strong in run support. Still, the Seahawks churned for 145 yards and a 4.3 average on the ground, and Alexander rushed for two of Seattle's three touchdowns. Grade: C- PASSING DEFENSE: It was nothing spectacular, but the 49ers did keep Seattle's fine passing game in front of them most of the day and came up with several stops in key sequences, particularly as the game progressed. The Seahawks converted on just five of 15 third-down opportunities – going 0 for 3 in the fourth quarter – and that allowed the Niners to stay in the game and rally at the finish. Spencer got beat for a touchdown, but the 49ers got their hands on five Matt Hasselbeck passes and generally were in position in coverage. Andre Carter applied some good pressure and had a sack, but the 49ers didn't get enough consistent heat on Hasselbeck. This grade would be higher if Bruce Thornton and Ben Emanuel had held onto potential interceptions, which could have been game-swayers, but the young secondary again played well against a quality opponent. Grade: C+ SPECIAL TEAMS: Good 'ol Joe Nedney provided the 49ers another four field goals and his kickoffs again were solid. The coverage teams, again, allowed Seattle nothing of consequence. Andy Lee's punting was superb, but rookie Rasheed Marshall brings down the final grade of these units for the second consecutive week. Marshall called for a fair catch on a punt when he had plenty of room to run in front of him, and his lost fumble on his final kickoff return handed Seattle a gift field goal. Those three points proved to be the difference in the game. Grade: C+ COACHING: Particularly early in the game, the 49ers again seemed disorganized and the play-calling was suspect, particularly a quarterback draw by the slow-footed Dorsey on third-and-goal from the Seattle 3 that lost two yards. There was no way Dorsey ever was going to score on that play, so why call it instead of taking a throw at the end zone? Dorsey had to burn two timeouts before the game was 20 minutes old, and coaches again didn't seem to have the team very well prepared strategically in the early going. But things got much better in the second half as the 49ers made solid adjustments, and coaches had it going right on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter. The sequence of calls on San Francisco's final possession produced one of the finest drives of the season, particularly considering the situation. And perhaps most important here: The 49ers, with several new young starters in the lineup, were ready to match up with a superior opponent and coaches did what it took to keep them in the game, not to mention produce the best offense the team has seen since September. Grade: B- OVERALL: You've heard the mantra from the 49ers about no moral victories in defeat, but this was one. They were ripe to be hammered by a Seattle team that is shaping up as a Super Bowl contender, but instead finally showed some life on offense and were in a position at the end to force overtime against a 13-point favorite. The 49ers and their home fans needed to see some encouraging signs against another quality opponent – the fourth consecutive first-place team the Niners have faced – and this effort provided it. The 49ers still didn't make the plays necessary to win with the game in the balance, but they found themselves at the finish with a chance to make those plays. That's progress. Grade: C+
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