49ers report card
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Alex Smith's straight-line missile to Bryan Gilmore that culminated San Francisco's opening possession with a 15-yard scoring play was as pretty and precise a pass as any Smith has thrown since he joined the 49ers, a well-placed delivery that had plenty of steam on it to hit Gilmore in stride in the back of the end zone. Smith had several nice throws against the NFL's No. 1 defense, which also entered the game with the league's top pass defense. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 214 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, also making a well-placed throw on the run to hit fullback Moran Norris in the corner of the end zone. Smith's interception late in the first half changed the tide of the game after the 49ers had threatened to get back into it after cutting San Diego's lead to nine points. Smith's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage as he threw quickly after a three-step drop. The pass blocking held up for a while against a very good pressure defense, but the Chargers got four of their five sacks in the second half when, with a huge lead, they could send linemen and blitzers after Smith repeatedly and relentlessly, knowing that the 49ers had to throw. Smith also was hit seven other times as the San Diego defense appeared to wear down San Francisco's blocking schemes as the game progressed. RUSHING OFFENSE: B-- Frank Gore ripped off a 22-yard gain on San Francisco's first possession and was headed for another big day against a top defense, but the 49ers turned away from their running game after quickly falling behind. Gore, who came into the game as the NFL's leading rusher, had 55 yards on just 10 carries. Gilmore carried twice on reverses for 31 yards, but he fumbled at the end of one of those runs, another play that helped take the 49ers out of the game and led to the lopsided final margin. PASSING DEFENSE: F -- This was the worst game for a pass defense that has had several already this season and appears to be regressing instead of progressing. There was no pass rush on Philip Rivers, who had plenty of time to scan the field and find the inevitable open receiver. The 49ers did not record a sack and really never came particularly close, hitting Rivers just three times. The coverage also wasn't there as San Francisco cornerbacks appeared almost unprepared to compete. Shawntae Spencer gave up seven pass completions for 90 yards and the replacements for Walt Harris on the other side had plenty of misadventures. The 49ers were called for 71 yards on just three penalties, as defensive linemen Isaac Sopoaga and Anthony Adams were flagged for roughing the passer, and cornerback Sammy Davis was hit with a questionable 41-yard pass-interference penalty. The 49ers made Rivers look like an All-Pro in just his fifth NFL start as he threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns while posting a 116.8 passer rating. On his first play after replacing a shaken-up Davis, rookie Marcus Hudson looked like he didn't belong, responding with horrible coverage and getting beaten for a 33-yard scoring pass. RUSHING DEFENSE: C-minus -- The 49ers allowed an average of just 2.9 yards rushing per attempt to a good rushing team led by one of the NFL's premier running backs in LaDainian Tomlinson, who was limited to 71 yards on 21 carries and had a long run of just nine yards. But the 49ers didn't limit him around the goal line, as Tomlinson capped off several drives with a career-high four touchdown runs. The 49ers did a good job between the 20-yard lines but appeared to soften when it counted as the Chargers closed in on the end zone. The 49ers also failed to stop the Chargers on four of five third-down rushing attempts as San Diego converted 80 percent of its third downs in the game. SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The coverage units again excelled, limiting Michael Turner to just an 11.7 average on three kickoff returns and Eric Parker to a 5.7 average on three punt returns. Punter Andy Lee also had a good game, averaging 48.0 yards on four punts with a net of 38.8. But the 49ers did not get much going in the return game, as Maurice Hicks was held well below his NFC-leading average with a 21.7 showing on nine returns. Rookie Brandon Williams showed some flash on a 25-yard punt return, but it was nullified by a penalty, and Williams' other returns netted only six yards on a punt and nine yards on a kickoff. COACHING: D -- Give offensive coordinator Norv Turner a lot of credit for coming up with a game plan that had the NFL's top-ranked defense reeling for the better part of two quarters. But the rest of this area gets a failing grade. The defensive plan was completely flawed from the start, and the 49ers never adjusted, which left their players to get embarrassed on the field as the game wore on. The 49ers were out-classed in talent, to be sure, but that's where coaches needed to step in. But they just seemed to add to the 49ers' confusion. The 49ers had linebacker T.J. Slaughter lined up in single coverage against tight end Antonio Gates early in the game, and the result was a 57-yard touchdown reception. Hudson also seemed to be clueless on what to do in his only defensive play of the game, and he shouldn't have been left to get burned in single coverage in that sort of situation.
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