49ers report card

A ‘D' to begin December fits the 49ers, who may have let their best chance to grab a victory during the month slip away in the fourth quarter of a dismal 17-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

PASSING OFFENSE: D-plus -- QB Alex Smith showed some of the flashes of why the 49ers chose him with the top overall pick with an exceptional first-half performance. He completed 11 of 12 passes for 138 yards in opening two quarters for a passer rating of 114.6. But the second half was a different story, as he threw three interceptions and had a 13.5 passer rating. After having a lot of time to throw in the first half, Smith was pressured quite a bit in the second half. His interceptions were a matter of holding onto the ball too long or making poor decisions under pressure. Johnnie Morton did a nice job reeling in some long passes over the middle. The pass blocking was sporadic, and Smith's offensive linemen were pushed back into him on two of his interceptions.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- Not only did the 49ers fail to generate any kind of ground game, but backup Frank Gore also committed a costly fumble that led to the Cardinals' winning points. Starter Maurice Hicks, playing in place of injured Kevan Barlow, gained just 17 yards on 10 carries. He had a 1-yard TD run in the second quarter. Gore had only slightly better success with 22 yards on six carries as the San Francisco line could do little to open holes up front.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The 49ers surrendered 354 yards passing, but they generally did a good job of keeping the Cardinals out of the end zone. However, their game fell apart in the fourth quarter when they could not tackle WR Anquan Boldin after a short pass, a play that resulted in a 54-yard touchdown. The 49ers did not get a consistent pass rush on Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, who was sacked twice by linebacker Brandon Moore. The 49ers also recorded two interceptions, neither of which they were able to turn into points.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The 49ers had to gear up to contain the Cardinals' passing attack, but they still managed to do a fine job in the run game. They held J.J. Arrington to just 59 yards on 18 carries. The 49ers' defensive front allowed just three rushing first downs. LB Derek Smith recorded a game-high 11 tackles despite spending most of the game's passing downs on the sideline.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- Keith Lewis blocked a punt, a play that could have been a game-turning sequence. Teammate Marcus Maxwell had a chance to scoop it up and score, but he couldn't get the handle on it. The 49ers ended up settling for Joe Nedney's 48-yard field goal. P Andy Lee had another solid game with a 43.4 average. Rasheed Marshall averaged just 15.2 yards on five kickoff returns, but the 49ers' average starting point was their 30-yard line.

COACHING: D-minus -- Coach Mike Nolan admitted to not knowing the rules. He called a timeout in the fourth quarter to get his defense to regroup after a fumble. Then, he decided to challenge Gore's fumble. When the play was upheld, the 49ers had lost their last two timeouts. The game plan in the first half was solid, but the 49ers did not do as well scheming to account for the Cardinals' blitzes. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis had a good call on the play in which Boldin scored the Cardinals' only touchdown, but poor tackling didn't finish the job. Once again, the opposing team made adjustments after halftime and the 49ers failed to respond, allowing a third-quarter lead to slip away for the second week in a row.

OVERALL: D -- What started out as a promising effort deteriorated into another ragged performance by the 49ers against a substandard opponent. With three consecutive road games on the horizon, this probably was San Francisco's best – or, realistically, perhaps only – chance to get a win in December, and the Niners failed to get the job done when victory was there for the taking.

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