Grading the NFC West: Week 2

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 2 games against other NFC West teams:


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- The only positive was that QB Marc Bulger threw a touchdown pass in the red zone and did not throw an interception. His passer rating was 81.1. However, he was sacked six times for a loss of 38 yards, fumbling on one of them, and averaged less than 10 yards for his 19 completions. WR Torry Holt averaged just 6.0 yards on his five receptions.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- RB Steven Jackson had one of his more consistent games of his career. With 103 yards on 22 carries, Jackson had just two carries with minus yardage, and he gained 42 yards on nine first-down runs. More significant was that there were more second-and-long runs calls than normal, and on those nine attempts, Jackson totaled 54 yards. He had five runs for 32 yards on 2nd-and-10 with four of the carries gaining at least seven yards, and he added a 14-yard run on a 2nd-and-15 play.

PASSING DEFENSE: C -- 49ers quarterback Alex Smith passed just 22 times, completing 11, but the Rams had no sacks and Smith did not have an interception. Eight of the completions went for just 71 yards, but the other three totaled 162 (72, 56, 34), big plays that helped the 49ers win.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Frank Gore ran hard and consistently, gaining 127 yards on 29 attempts, and scoring on a 32-yard touchdown. He had 28 yards on six consecutive plays on San Francisco's final possessions that resulted in two first downs and kept the Rams from getting the ball back one final time.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The good was a 30-yard punt return by Shaun McDonald that set up the Rams' first point and a 40-yard kickoff return by J.R. Reed. Matt Turk punted well (40.8-yard net), and the 49ers one punt return (there were four fair catches and two inside the 20) gained just seven yards. On kickoffs, Jeff Wilkins had one touchback and two returns totaled just 38 yards. However, a Maurice Hicks 59-yard return started the second half and ignited the 49ers on a third-quarter scoring surge that got them two touchdowns in 3:22, turning a 10-3 deficit into a 17-10 lead. Wilkins missed a 46-yard field goal in the second half.

COACHING: C -- Coach Scott Linehan had his team in position to win, but the struggling offense scored just 13 points, and the defense allowed too many big plays.


PASSING OFFENSE: C -- QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed two interceptions. He also absorbed three more sacks. His receivers dropped six passes. The Cardinals caused some of the issues with their unorthodox scheme. They lined up SS Adrian Wilson as a defensive end early in the game, one example of a look Seattle hadn't seen. The Cardinals took chances and Hasselbeck made them pay a few times. He found WR Darrell Jackson for completions of 47 and 49 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- RB Shaun Alexander had another off game. A sore foot bothered him to the point that RB Maurice Morris got some extra carries. While the ground game was inconsistent, Morris and FB Mack Strong came through with big plays in key moments. The ground game improved after LG Floyd Womack left the game with injury. His replacement, Chris Spencer, helped Seattle get a better push. Hasselbeck also hurt the Cardinals by checking to a running play on a key third-and-6 situation. Strong gained 13 yards on the play.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Seattle fed off the home crowd (and the Cardinals' overmatched line) to sack Arizona QB Kurt Warner five times. The Seahawks hit Warner a dozen times. Warner fumbled four times. SS Michael Boulware picked off a pass. CB Kelly Herndon, CB Marcus Trufant and CB Kelly Jennings handled the Cardinals' dynamic receivers. The pass rush helped them immensely.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Cardinals managed only 65 yards on the ground. MLB Lofa Tatupu had 12 tackles and a fumble recovery. The crowd noise made it tough for the Cardinals' offensive linemen to stay aggressive. Seattle's active front seven capitalized, consistently beating the Cardinals to the punch.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- This was a poor performance on special teams. Seattle forced and recovered a fumble on an early kick return, only to have the play negated by an offsides penalty against DE Darryl Tapp. The Seahawks had another field goal blocked, this time when rookie P Ryan Plackemeier dropped the snap from LS Derek Rackley. Plackemeier later had a punt travel only 14 yards after bouncing backward.

COACHING: B -- The defensive staff is having fun finding ways for Seattle to use its speed on defense. They found a way for LB Julian Peterson to get favorable matchups. Peterson had a free shot on Warner even though Peterson factored prominently into the Cardinals' plan. The offensive plan would have looked a lot better had the Seahawks' receivers not dropped six passes. Handing off to FB Mack Strong at the goal line worked beautifully because the Cardinals were focusing on MVP Shaun Alexander. That play was a nice touch.


PASSING OFFENSE: C -- QB Kurt Warner was under pressure all day, but there were also times he held on to the ball too long. He had one interception and lost a fumble. Two other interceptions were called back because of penalties.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- It produced little, partly because the club played from behind all afternoon. Edgerrin James gained 64 yards on 18 carries. He occasionally had some room to run, but the Cardinals couldn't stay on the ground when they were two touchdowns behind.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- They intercepted two of Matt Hasselbeck's passes, sacked him three times and held him to less than 50 percent completion rate (12 of 27). But two big pass plays accounted for 14 points.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Sure, Shaun Alexander gained only 89 yards, but the Seahawks overall had 146 yards on 36 carries. By falling behind early, the Cardinals allowed the Seahawks to stay on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Neil Rackers missed two field goals, equaling his total from all of last year. But they were from 51 and 53 yards and the 51 yarder hit the upright. The coverage teams were much improved over a week ago, but the return teams produced little.

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