49ers report card
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Considering the game plan and the opportunities the 49ers had against a defense stacked against the run, this was a miserable performance, rivaling San Francisco's worst of the season. Quarterback Alex Smith had a lot of chances to make big plays in the passing game, but he repeatedly misfired or failed to find the open receiver. Smith completed 14 of 28 passes for one touchdown with three interceptions, and although he threw for 171 yards, he could have had much, much more. Moreover, Smith was sacked four times, and some of those were his fault for holding the ball too long. Wide receiver Antonio Bryant had a 48-yard scoring catch, but he did not come up with several 50-50 balls that appeared as if they would result in big plays. The starting wideouts - Bryant and Arnaz Battle - combined for eight receptions, but San Francisco's leading receiver once again was running back Frank Gore, who had underneath receptions that resulted in little damage. RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Gore was stuffed early and never really had a chance to pound the ball at the Saints on the ground. Gore had rushed for a club-record 505 yards over a three-game stretch entering this game, but he never had a chance against a Saints defense that put eight men in the box to stop him. Gore had just 40 yards on 13 carries, and the 49ers went away from their running game after the game started to get away from them in the second half. PASS DEFENSE: B -- The 49ers were concerned about the high-powered Saints offense going vertical. San Francisco did not allow that to happen, as it held Saints quarterback Drew Brees to just 186 yards passing. The Saints' starting wideouts - Joe Horn and Devery Henderson - combined for just three receptions for 32 yards. However, the Saints found success going underneath to Reggie Bush, and they kept going there after the 49ers failed to adjust. Bush had a game-high nine receptions for 131 yards, including a 74-yard catch and run during which Bush used his vision and speed to get away down the sideline. But the 49ers otherwise did a fine job shutting down the NFL's hottest passer. RUSH DEFENSE: D-minus -- The 49ers opened the game in a 3-4 defense and switched up after it became apparent that the Saints intended to run the ball. The linebacker crew did not do a good job of swarming to the ball and making plays. Bush had three rushing TDs, while Deuce McAllister added 136 yards on 26 carries, including 84 yards on 17 carries in the second half against a tiring San Francisco defense. The Saints rushed for 190 yards, easily the most allowed in a game by the 49ers this season. SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- Andy Lee had a strong game, as he averaged 50.3 yards on seven punts, including a 45.1 net. Joe Nedney surprised the Saints with an onside kick early in the third quarter that was recovered by 49ers rookie Michael Robinson. They 49ers didn't get much out of the return game, while the Saints' Michael Lewis had a 47-yard kickoff return. But that was the only glitch on another solid day by the coverage teams. COACHING: C-plus -- It's difficult to find fault with the offensive game plan because coordinator Norv Turner put Smith and the receivers in spots to make big plays. They just didn't get it done. Defensively, the 49ers opened the game in a 3-4 formation and subsequently held the Saints without a first down for the first three drives of the game. Coach Mike Nolan lost two replay challenges in the game, and the 49ers continued their disturbing trend of burning timeouts because they were unorganized on the field.
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