49ers report card

The 49ers are quickly flunking out on the football course known as the 2006 Season. After their latest failure in Chicago, there are plenty of lowest grades possible to go around for San Francisco while grading the Niners' shoddy performance in an ugly 41-10 loss to the Bears.

PASSING OFFENSE: D-plus -- Down 10-0 before the 49ers ever touched the football, the San Francisco offense was doomed from the start, and the Bears could lay back in coverage and come after quarterback Alex Smith with reckless abandon virtually from the beginning. Under those conditions, Smith managed to complete 16 of 26 passes for 146 yards, including a 16-yard scoring strike to Antonio Bryant, and his lone interception came on a spectacular play by Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who leaped in the air, tipped the ball, and then came down with a one-handed pick as he was being drove into the ground by guard Justin Smiley. Bryant had five receptions and Arnaz Battle had four as the 49ers got their wideouts more involved, but most of their catches came underneath coverage. The pass blocking was decent despite Chicago's aggressive pressure, and Smith did a good job of avoiding the heat and buying time on a few occasions. Both of Chicago's two sacks came as a result of right tackle Kwame Harris getting beaten by Chicago defenders. The big downgrade here is Smith's interception and two lost fumbles, and another lost fumble by Bryant when the 49ers were driving in Chicago territory. The Bears turned three of those four turnovers into touchdowns, and the other left them at the San Francisco 9-yard line at the end of the game, where they mercifully took a knee and ran out the clock.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Chicago defense, ranked third in the NFL against the run, didn't do much to stop Frank Gore, who averaged 9.3 yards a pop on his 12 carries. But then again, the Bears didn't need to worry about stopping San Francisco's ground game, because the game was already out of hand by the end of the first quarter. Gore had big gains of 18, 53 and 21 yards on his way to a 111-yard rushing day, and that helped the 49ers salvage something out of the second half and get on the scoreboard. But one suspects it might have been different in a closer game. Still, Gore had some pretty runs against a defense that wasn't going to just let him get those yards, even with a huge lead. Smith used his legs to pick up 23 yards on the ground while smartly avoiding big hits, but his lost fumble on a 3-yard gain in the first quarter helped turn the game into an early rout, as the Bears capitalized with another touchdown to go ahead 24-0 just 14 minutes into the contest.

PASSING DEFENSE: F -- The 49ers have had several dismal games against the pass this season, but this has to rank as about the worst, which is saying something. Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman, coming off a six-turnover game against the Arizona Cardinals, humiliated the 49ers with a 137.4 passer rating. Grossman was rarely touched and had all the time he needed to throw in the pocket as the San Francisco pass rush again was pitiful. He completed 23 of 29 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns, and he had receivers streaking open all day against a San Francisco secondary that again was embarrassed. How San Francisco let tight end Desmond Clark get so wide open for his two touchdown receptions, only the 49ers know for sure. There was also poor coverage technique and tackling displayed several times by San Francisco defenders.

RUSHING DEFENSE: D-minus -- Chicago's lone weakness this season had been rushing offense, but not on this day against the bumbling 49ers. The Bears controlled the game early on with Thomas Jones' rushing as he broke off 9-yard gains on two of the game's first three plays from scrimmage to set the tone. One key play came early when, on third down, the 49ers' defense had Jones bottled up on the left side. However, he just reversed field and went into the end zone completely untouched from 7 yards out for a 10-0 lead. Jones finished with 111 yards on 23 carries. His biggest gain was 12 yards, showing how consistently he was able to run the ball. The Bears kept handing Jones the ball until late in the third quarter to milk a 100-yard game, which he got before heading to the bench. Backup Cedric Benson also had some sporadic success and scored a rushing touchdown as the Bears went for 145 yards on the ground, averaging 4.1 yards a carry.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Since the rest of the team was imploding, why not San Francisco's usually consistent special teams, too? Joe Nedney's opening kickoff was short and the Bears started their first series at the 34. The next time the 49ers' special teams had a chance to make a play, they produced the biggest play of the game - for the Bears. After San Francisco's defense held the Bears to a field goal on that first drive, Maurice Hicks hesitated in the end zone after catching the ensuing kickoff, then made a poor decision to bring it out before being swarmed by Chicago defenders and fumbling at the his own 15-yard line. That set up Jones' touchdown and a quick 10-0 lead by the Bears that got the blowout rolling. Andy Lee had a poor punt that was returned 42 yards by Devin Hester to set up another Chicago touchdown, and Lee averaged only 39 yards on his four kicks. Chicago's Rashied Davis averaged 24.3 yards on three kickoff returns. Rookie Brandon Williams showed a little spark for the 49ers on his two punt returns, but it wasn't enough to save this grade.

COACHING: F -- The 49ers had two weeks to rally the troops and get ready for this game, and this is what they came up with? The Niners were unprepared from the start and didn't belong on the same field as the Bears. It was almost comical at times as the befuddled San Francisco defense had to call timeouts three times when the 49ers failed to respond in time with substitutions to counteract the personnel changes the Bears were sending onto the field. That goes right to coaching, and somebody needs to be held accountable. The 49ers had five turnovers, the defense looked helpless to stop the Bears and the team looked defeated early and played that way throughout the first half. Once again, the 49ers fell apart quickly when things went wrong, and that's where coaches are supposed to step in with leadership and ostensibly stop the bleeding, or at least prevent it from flowing so freely.


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