Grading the NFC West: Week 8

Handing out a bunch of spotty grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West, each of whom lost by a touchdown or more during Week 8 games.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- QB Seneca Wallace tossed three touchdown passes in his first start. One of his two interceptions resulted from a bad read. The other came on a tipped ball, and Seattle retained possession when WR Deion Branch forced Chiefs DE Jared Allen to fumble during the return. Branch and WR Darrell Jackson continued to make big plays despite limited opportunities. TE Jerramy Stevens caught his first scoring pass of the season. Even WR Nate Burleson got involved with a key 21-yard reception in the fourth quarter. Wallace was sacked only once after Seattle allowed 21 sacks in the first six games.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- The Seahawks couldn't run the ball with Shaun Alexander and not much has changed without him. The run game sputtered against the Chiefs, one reason the Seahawks controlled the ball for only 17 minutes in this game. The run blocking seemed better this week, but Maurice Morris couldn't get much going. Wallace wasn't much of a factor with his feet, a bit of a surprise.

PASSING DEFENSE: D -- The Chiefs made big plays through the air almost at will. CB Marcus Trufant and FS Ken Hamlin were nowhere near Chiefs WR Eddie Kennison during a critical 51-yard reception that helped Kansas City retake the lead in the fourth quarter.

RUSHING DEFENSE: F -- The Seahawks missed more tackles than at any point this season. The Chiefs were much more physical with their two- and three-tight personnel groupings. They knocked Seattle off the ball and broke through weak attempts at tackles. Seattle had no answer as Kansas City handed off 39 times to RB Larry Johnson, who scored three of his four touchdowns on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Rookie P Ryan Plackemeier had his best game of the season, posting a 42.3-yard net average with two of his four punts downed inside the 20. He gave Seattle's defense good field position and it wasn't his fault the "D" did not capitalize. Seattle's special teams also scored a touchdown when CB Kelly Herndon returned a muffed field-goal snap 61 yards at a pivotal moment in the second half. The kick-return game remained mediocre with Josh Scobey taking over for the recently released Willie Ponder. And the Chiefs averaged 27.6 yards on kick returns, too fat a number.

COACHING: D -- The defensive staff is having a hard time getting players to meet their level from last season. Players are frequently out of position. They are not playing with much instinct. That needs to change for the Seahawks to re-emerge as strong playoff contenders. Those problems kept the defense on the field for more than 42 minutes against the Chiefs. The offensive plan seemed sound in that backup QB Seneca Wallace was comfortable despite making his first start. Coach Mike Holmgren didn't ask Wallace to do too much, but he did let him play, and the results were mostly positive. It was unclear why the staff removed LG Rob Sims in favor of Chris Spencer in the fourth quarter. The two split time, as expected, but Sims appeared to be in a very good rhythm when the final change was made.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- QB Marc Bulger fell 0.9 points short of his fifth straight game with a passer rating of 110 or better. He passed for 327 yards and two touchdowns. WR Kevin Curtis had his most productive game of the season with seven receptions for 79 yards and Isaac Bruce added 105 yards on five catches. WR Torry Holt had five catches, but for only 48 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- RB Steven Jackson had 84 yards on 18 attempts, the first game this season in which he fell short of 20 carries. However, Jackson isn't contributing breakout runs. His longest of the game was 12 yards.

PASSING DEFENSE: C -- San Diego QB Philip Rivers was never really challenged, and showed poise in the pocket. He completed passes against the blitz, including a 27-yard play to TE Antonio Gates that led to a first-quarter touchdown.

RUSHING DEFENSE: D -- Big plays doomed the Rams again, as RB LaDainian Tomlinson gained 118 yards on four carries. Maurice Turner contributed a 14-yard touchdown run. The Chargers rushed for 216 yards, and 132 came on five plays.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- These units were solid in coverage, but did little in the return game. Jeff Wilkins made his one field-goal attempt from 34 yards.

COACHING: C -- Coach Scott Linehan talked all week about stopping RB LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates, but it didn't happen enough. Those two players combined for 306 of the Chargers' 419 yards. The game showed the Rams still have a lot of work to do on defense.


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Quarterback Matt Leinart struggled for a second straight game, completing fewer than half of his passes. And he was going against the Packers, who had given up more passing yards than any other team.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The run game was actually effective at times. The problem was the Cardinals fell behind 21-0 and had to abandon it.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Packers ran the ball so well that they didn't have to pass much. But Brett Favre wasn't sacked and he didn't throw an interception.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Packers physically whipped the Cardinals front seven. They pushed the defensive line off the ball, and their runners had no problem getting into the secondary. Both Ahman Green and Vernand Morency gained more than 100 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The punt coverage was better, but not great. The blocking on the kickoff team is atrocious, and the return teams again contributed nothing.

COACHING: F -- This team was flat for the second straight week. The defense was manhandled, and it was hard to tell just what the offensive game plan was.

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