49ers report card

Handing out high grades this week to the 49ers, who were 'B' or better in every category after their thorough 20-13 victory Sunday over the St. Louis Rams.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Quarterback Alex Smith completed just half of his 22 passes, but he averaged a whopping 21.2 yards per completion while making the most of his opportunities down the field, allowing the Niners to average a very impressive 10.6 yards per passing attempt. Receiver Antonio Bryant was visibly frustrated earlier in the game, just like he was in the first half the previous week, but he came through with a 72-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that gave the 49ers a lead they would not relinquish in the third quarter. Bryant averaged 32.8 yards on his four receptions and now leads the NFL with a 30.6 average after beginning his 49ers career with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. Arnaz Battle also had a 56-yard reception, but Smith missed some opportunities for some other big plays. He was not sacked, however, and he was turnover free for the second game in a row. The offensive line, with two reserves starting, did a good job keeping Smith upright.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The offensive line performed well here, too, even without left tackle Jonas Jennings and left guard Larry Allen on the field. Adam Snyder and Tony Wragge stepped in and played well. With those youngsters winning at the point of attack, the 49ers had success in the run game with Frank Gore rushing for a career-high 127 yards on 29 carries, a 4.4 average. His 32-yard touchdown burst early in the second half was a huge play, making up for his fumble near the goal line in the second quarter, which is what brings down this grade. With Gore carrying six consecutive times, the 49ers run game picked up two first downs to run out the final 3:38.

PASSING DEFENSE: A-minus -- The 49ers got good pressure on Rams quarterback Marc Bulger with six sacks and five hurries. And the secondary covered the deep ball especially well, with cornerback Walt Harris and free safety Mike Adams both making plays deep down the field. Harris knocked away three St. Louis passes and also had a team-high seven tackles. Adams had four tackles and had excellent coverage to knock away a long-bomb attempt. The 49ers surrendered only 147 yards of net passing to the Rams, a team that has given them a multitude of problems through the years. Linebacker Manny Lawson and nickel safety Chad Williams had two sacks apiece, with defensive linemen Bryant Young and Marques Douglas getting the other two. Douglas' sack was particularly huge as he forced a fumble that San Francisco recovered at the St. Louis 17 with the 49ers clinging to a 17-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter. That led to a field goal and the final margin of victory.

RUSHING DEFENSE: B -- The 49ers gave up some yards in the run game, but they avoided getting gashed for huge gains. Rams running back Steven Jackson gained 103 yards on 22 carries, but his longest run went for 14 yards and the 49ers kept him out of the end zone. The front seven did a good job of closing things down, and the secondary played well in run support. Lawson had a key stop of Jackson for a two-yard loss at the San Francisco 26 in the third-quarter that ultimately forced the Rams to settle for a 46-yard field goal attempt that Jeff Wilkins missed. The inside linebackers, Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich, had a relatively quiet day while combining for 10 tackles. Defensive ends Young and Douglas both had excellent games, combining for nine tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Maurice Hicks changed the momentum of the game with his 59-yard kickoff return to open the second half. But it wasn't all good for the special teams. Kicker Joe Nedney missed a 46-yard field goal. Keith Lewis was called for roughing the punter, giving the Rams a new set of downs, leading to a field goal which sparked a run of 10 unanswered St. Louis points. The coverage units allowed a 30-yard punt return after a line-drive kick by punter Andy Lee but were otherwise solid. Lee averaged 45 yards on four punts, placing two inside the 20, and had a 37.5 net despite the long return.

COACHING: A -- Again, offensive coordinator Norv Turner had a fine game plan to attack a Rams defense that confounded the Broncos a week earlier. The 49ers were stubborn with the run game, which opened the door for Smith to make some plays down the field in the passing game. Defensively, the 49ers had it schemed wonderfully against the Rams. They generated pressure on Bulger with a variety of looks without hanging the secondary out to dry like in the first half last week against Arizona. Coach Mike Nolan and crew did not allow the 49ers to get rattled after San Francisco mistakes allowed St. Louis to grab a 10-3 halftime lead despite being outplayed in the first two quarters. San Francisco's halftime adjustments were excellent, a contrast to several of last year's games. Coaches have this team playing hard and well.

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