49ers report card
PASS OFFENSE: D-minus - Alex Smith continues to take baby steps as the 49ers' starting quarterback. He made some plays, missed some open receivers, was sacked just twice, did not fumble and threw one interception. Smith completed his first two passes, but finished just 8-of-24 for 123 yards. He was just 1-of-9 on third downs, with his completion going for 6 yards when the team needed 8. Consequently, the 49ers were a horrible 1-of-13 on third-down conversion attempts in the game. Smith threw incomplete on his final nine pass attempts when all the 49ers needed was to get in field-goal range for Joe Nedney to have an opportunity to win the game. Johnnie Morton and Jason McAddley both came up with nice catches for long gains, but those were two of just three receptions by San Francisco wide receivers in the game. RUSH OFFENSE: B-minus - Rookie Frank Gore provided a spark for the 49ers with 79 yards rushing on 19 carries. Even Smith got into the act, showing his scrambling ability for the first time with 30 yards on four rushing attempts. Gore was filling in for an injured Kevan Barlow, but he shows more fire and determination in his running than the team's starter. It might be difficult for the 49ers to put Barlow back into his starting role. The line provided a few holes against a quality defense, but more often Gore made something out of nothing. PASS DEFENSE: B - Even with a secondary that consisted of two rookies, two inexperienced second-year players and a first-year player as the nickel back, the 49ers managed to do a pretty good job against the Jaguars with consistently solid play. David Garrard completed 21 of 40 passes for 216 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Rookie CB Derrick Johnson broke up two passes and demonstrated good tackling form with eight stops. CB Bruce Thornton was flagged for pass interference on a third-down play that kept Jacksonville's game-winning field goal drive alive, but it was a questionable call at best. The 49ers sacked Garrard twice, but the pass rush again was lagging, particularly up front. RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus - The 49ers did not surrender much on the ground to Jaguars RBs Fred Taylor and Greg Jones, as they averaged 3.6 and 3.7 yards per carry, respectively, on a combined 29 attempts. LBs Julian Peterson and Andre Carter missed tackles on Garrard, which resulted in big plays. Peterson whiffed on Garrard at the 3-yard line on the game's only touchdown. Otherwise, the Jags really didn't hurt the 49ers much on the ground despite rushing for 134 yards. Jacksonville had only two rushes of 10 yards or more, and one of them was Garrard's touchdown scramble. Derek Smith again was strong in the middle with a game-high 10 tackles. SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus - Joe Nedney made all three of his field-goal attempts, nailing kicks from 35, 47 and 33 yards out. However, his kickoff out of bounds gave the Jaguars the field position they needed for the deciding points early in the fourth quarter. Punter Andy Lee was inconsistent but managed respectable gross and net averages of 41.9 and 36.3 yards per kick. The 49ers continue to get little or no production out of their return game, but they don't give up a lot in the areas of punt returns and kickoff returns, either. Rookie Rasheed Marshall continues to be shaky fielding punts, and almost nonexistent when he attempts to return them. COACHING: B-minus - The 49ers had a game plan that seemed to work well for them, enabling them to remain close to the Jaguars, who are closing in on an AFC wild-card spot. However, offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy has not had success in making adjustments to get the offense going after halftime. The 49ers gained just 61 of their 217 total yards after halftime. They failed to achieve a first down on five of their six second-half possessions. This has been a recurring theme throughout the season, and this week it cost the 49ers a legitimate chance at victory. OVERALL: C The 49ers played very well at times on defense and appeared to often dictate the tempo of the game against a superior, playoff-bound opponent on its home field. It was a big step up from previous efforts during the past month. However, no matter how well their patchwork defense plays, it's going to be nearly impossible for the 49ers to win games unless their Smith-led offense plays better and starts getting into the end zone and producing more points. The 49ers have scored only 22 points since he took over again as the starting QB three games ago. That's not going to get it done, not even in games such as this when the 49ers matched their season low in points allowed.
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