Grading the NFC West: Week 12

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 12 games.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Marc Bulger was efficient, connecting with running backs Steven Jackson and Stephen Davis on 10 of his 23 completions, including five in the game-winning touchdown drive. Bulger was 9-for-9 for 76 yards on the deciding drive with 36 yards going to the running backs. The offense still had difficulty going downfield, with Bulger's longest completion 20 yards. He missed a wide-open WR Torry Holt on a deep pass that was overthrown and could have been a 61-yard touchdown. Backup Gus Frerotte, subbing for a shaken up Bulger at the end of the first half, connected with WR Kevin Curtis on a 27-yard play with seconds remaining that led to a key 51-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins. Curtis scored the winning touchdown on a 5-yard play.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Rams committed to the run again, and Jackson registered his third 100-yard game of the season. He carried 23 times for 121 yards, while Davis chipped in with 25 yards on five attempts. Jackson ran hard, had no negative-yardage plays, and gained 10 yards on two 4th-and-1 runs in the winning touchdown drive.

PASSING DEFENSE: B-plus Except for two big plays to Antonio Bryant for 53 yards in a touchdown drive at the end of the first half, the pass defense was solid. Aside from those plays, QB Alex Smith passed for just 95 yards and those were Bryant's only receptions of the game. Eight of Smith's 13 completions went to running backs or tight ends for 59 yards. Smith's passer rating was 50.1.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C -- Yes, the Rams allowed 171 rushing yards and Frank Gore had 134 on 21 carries, but the defense kept big plays to a minimum. While Gore did have seven runs of 10 yards or more, his long was 18, which is an improvement, considering the Rams had allowed nine runs of 30 yards or more entering the game. A stop on 3rd-and-1 in the fourth quarter led to a 49ers field goal, which put the lead at four points and the final touchdown drive for the Rams won the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Wilkins' 51-yard field goal at the end of the first half would up being the deciding points in a 20-17 victory. Kickoff and punt coverage was solid, and Shaun McDonald returned a punt 16 yards. Kay-Jay Harris became the fourth player to return kickoffs this season with Willie ponder inactive, and he was simply average with a 19.3-yard average on three returns.

COACHING: B-plus -- Coach Scott Linehan turned over play-calling responsibility to offensive coordinator Greg Olson so he could concentrate on being the head coach. Whether that made a difference is debatable, but in perception it likely helps Linehan in the eyes of his team as he tried to reverse the adversity that had enveloped them amid a five-game losing streak.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- This was a tale of two halves. Hasselbeck tossed three interceptions in the first half. He also lost a fumble on another pass play, a fumble the Packers returned for a touchdown. Seattle's receivers and tight ends also dropped five passes over the course of the game. Despite the struggles, Hasselbeck warmed up to throw three second-half scoring passes to win the game. "What they were doing coverage-wise was difficult to see," Hasselbeck said. "They were playing combination coverages that were difficult to recognize. The best thing to do in that situation is to run the ball, and that is what we did."

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Alexander set a franchise record with 40 carries. He became the fourth player in NFL history to top 200 yards rushing in a Monday night game. FB Mack Strong put some effective blocks on Packers MLB A.J. Hawk. Seattle succeeded in running from spread formations, a tactic the team has used to great effect over the years. One key is having Hasselbeck under center to pose a greater threat in the passing game.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Starting corners Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon had not picked off passes in the regular season in longer than a year. Both picked off Packers QB Brett Favre. Nickel CB Kelly Jennings joined in the fun, picking off a pass for the first time as a pro. The first-round pick from Miami was in perfect position for an ill-advised Favre pass late in the game. Seattle's corners have been playing increasingly well down the stretch. Now they have some interceptions to show for their work. The pass defense would have graded out better had Favre not found WR Donald Driver for a quick 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the third quarter. FS Ken Hamlin appeared to misread the play, allowing Driver to run free.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Favre's status drew the headlines all week, but Packers RB Ahman Green had to be feeling good about the possibilities for a big game after watching the 49ers gash Seattle for 262 yards on the ground. Green had to like his chances even better when Seattle's offense turned the ball over four times in the first half. Green managed only 44 yards on 14 carries for two reasons. One, the Seattle defense stiffened against the run. Two, the Seattle offense still managed to hold the ball for more than 36 minutes even without the turnovers. Seattle's defense is small and fast. It plays well in stretches, but not when left on the field time and time again.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Josh Brown made all four field-goal attempts despite very difficult conditions. WR Nate Burleson averaged nearly 26 yards in his first stint as Seattle's kick returner. He also provided some strong punt returns. Seattle enjoyed favorable field position in key moments as a result. P Ryan Plackemeier enjoyed a second consecutive strong game, posting a 40.7-yard net average.

COACHING: A -- Coach Mike Holmgren set a winning tone for his team by staying calm despite a horrendous start. He seemed to sense Seattle's offense would come around, and it did. Hasselbeck struggled early, leading Holmgren to carve out more carries for Alexander. That was the logical move and Holmgren made it. He also made two aggressive fourth-and-1 calls. Both decisions panned out. The defensive staff got another generally strong game from its secondary, which had been a concern earlier in the season. CBs Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings kept their confidence. Both played well in this game. Both decisions worked out. Special-teams coach Bob Casullo continues getting solid production from the kicking and return games.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Matt Leinart was sharp, completing 31 of 51 passes for 405 yards, and he was sacked only once. But all those yards should have resulted in more than just one offensive touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- They failed because they didn't try. They rushed only six times, including just four attempts by Edgerrin James.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Vikings QB Brad Johnson had five touchdown passes entering the game, and he added three against the Cardinals. CBs David Macklin and Antrel Rolle were picked on much of the afternoon.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Vikings gained 157 yards and averaged 4.8 yards a carry. Chester Taylor gashed the Cardinals consistently.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- J.J. Arrington proved he's still alive with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game. Scott Player didn't punt the whole game, and Neil Rackers had a beautiful onside kick. Rackers did miss a 41-yard field goal.

COACHING: C -- The team played hard and the passing game was excellent. But Dennis Green went for a two-point conversion long before he needed to, and the defensive game plan just didn't work.

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