Grading the NFC West: Week 6

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 6 games.


PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed three TD passes without an interception. His 42-yard strike to WR Darrell Jackson in the end zone got Seattle back in the game after a sluggish first half. The pass protection also improved. Seattle started picking up the Rams' blitzes, allowing Hasselbeck to make plays downfield. Once that happened, the Rams backed off on their blitzes, taking pressure off the Seahawks' offensive line. WR Deion Branch caught two TD passes in a breakout performance.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Seattle gained 121 of its 125 rushing yards in the second half, but RB Maurice Morris lost a key red-zone fumble when Seattle was trying to put away the game in the final three minutes. The fumble set up the go-ahead touchdown for the Rams. Seattle also had a 32-yard TD run wiped out by a holding penalty against LG Chris Spencer.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Seahawks gave up too many long pass plays, a continuing problem against teams with strong-armed quarterbacks. The Rams passed for 360 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead 67-yard scoring pass in the final two minutes. Seattle did manage to collect six sacks, including a key takedown to end the second half. DE Bryce Fisher and LB Julian Peterson had two sacks apiece, and MLB Lofa Tatupu picked off a pass, the first time Rams QB Marc Bulger had been intercepted this season.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Seattle held Rams RB Steven Jackson to fewer than 3.0 yards per carry, with a long run of nine yards. MLB Lofa Tatupu made a few key tackles to prevent longer gains, and DT Marcus Tubbs dominated at the line of scrimmage. The Rams still made their share of plays downfield in the passing game, but the run defense was mostly stout from start to finish.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- K Josh Brown made the winning 54-yard field goal, plus two 49-yarders, and Seattle recovered a key second-half fumble on a Rams kickoff return. The punting was again mediocre as rookie P Ryan Plackemeier finished with a net average below 35 yards. Brown has now made two game-winners in five games this season.

COACHING: A-minus -- Players credited Mike Holmgren's halftime tirade for jolting them back to form following a brutal first two quarters. Holmgren told the players, point-blank, that they were not leaving St. Louis without a victory -- this despite a 21-7 halftime deficit. Rah-rah speeches work in moderation and this one clearly got the job done. Seattle also smartly recommitted to its two-back, two-receiver offense. The team used only one four-wide set after using 42 of them in the last two games. The change allowed Seattle to rediscover its identity on offense.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- The only thing keeping this from getting the top grade was the pass protection. QB Marc Bulger was sacked six times, and several came when Seattle rushed just three linemen. Those sacks cost the Rams 51 yards. Still, Bulger passed for 360 yards and three touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 111.1, the third straight game in which he has had a rating of 110 or better. WR Torry Holt had a monster day, catching eight passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- RB Steven Jackson got his 20 attempts, but there were only four in the second half, and he totaled just 56 yards (2.8 per attempt). His long was just nine yards, but he did have a 2-yard touchdown. Overall, Jackson had 27 touches, adding seven receptions for 40 yards, many of which were designed plays and not checkdowns.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Rams did get to QB Matt Hasselbeck four times, but he passed for 268 yards, 177 of which came in the second half and was sacked just once in the second half. Hasselbeck had three touchdown passes, and hit two big plays in the final drive that got Seattle from the 17-yard line to midfield.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Seahawks rushed for 125 yards, but 22 came on two Hasselbeck scrambles and 19 on an end-around by WR Deion Branch. Maurice Morris was held in check with 74 yards on 23 attempts (3.2 per carry).

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The kickoff coverage was solid after a 36-yard return by Willie Ponder, and the punt coverage was good, although Matt Turk did not have a good day punting. The biggest minus was a fumble by kickoff returner Kevin Curtis, that directly led to Seattle's go-ahead points early in the fourth quarter.

COACHING: B-minus -- The game plan worked like a charm early, but little could be done to stem the tide in the second half. Defensive coaches continue to play strong safety Corey Chavous as a nickel or dime back covering receivers instead of Jerametrius Butler.


PASSING OFENSE: B -- Another solid effort by Matt Leinart, who has passed for two touchdowns in the first quarter in each of his first two starts.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Edgerrin James carried 36 times for 55 yards. He started off well but the Bears shut him down. It was the most carries in a game by a running back in NFL history to gain so few yards.

PASSING DEFENSE: A -- The Cardinals intercepted four passes and sacked Rex Grossman twice, forcing fumbles. Defense didn't lose this game.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A -- The Bears gained just 34 yards on 16 carries. The Cardinals' front four dominated the line of scrimmage. To repeat: Defense didn't lose this game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Is there a lower grade to give out than 'F'? Two missed field goals - including one in the final minute that could have salvaged what looked like a sure victory well into the second half - and they gave up a punt return for a touchdown. This area continues to hurt the club.

COACHING: B -- A solid defensive game plan, and the offensive plan gave the team a chance. Two fumble returns for touchdowns and a punt return for a score cost the Cardinals, who blew it big-time in their big opportunity to get their season back on track.

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