49ers report card

You have to go back a long way to find the last time the 49ers played a quarter of football that was as dramatic, consequential and productive as their fourth-quarter outburst that buried Seattle. You also have to go back a long way to find the last time they got all A's for their game performance, but that's what they get this week for their fantastic comeback in a 24-14 win over the Seahawks.

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- For all too long Thursday, it appeared quarterback Alex Smith was headed toward another putrid and regressive passing performance. After struggling through most of the game, Smith came on strong to finish with his best performance as a pro. His 54-yard completion to receiver Arnaz Battle with a pass rush in his face on the final play of the third quarter seemed to ignite the offense, and in the fourth quarter both Smith and the San Francisco offense came alive. Smith made several critical third-down plays, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to running back Frank Gore after somehow escaping blitzing cornerback Kelly Herndon. Smith completed 14 of 25 attempts for 162 yards and two TD passes and a passer rating of 102.4. Battle had 97 yards receiving on five catches, and Vernon Davis added an 8-yard scoring catch. Smith was not sacked and generally had time to throw, even after losing starting center Eric Heitmann to a broken leg in the first quarter.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Gore had a rough time through the first three quarters, but he kept pounding away at the Seahawks and exploded for for 106 yards in the fourth quarter to play an integral role in the upset. He finished with 144 yards on 29 carries, including consecutive runs of 18 and 40 yards on San Francisco's final 86-yard scoring drive. Smith, who also rushed for 33 yards, culminated that drive with an 18-yard bootleg for a touchdown that had the entire Seahawks defense fooled. The run blocking picked up in the second half against a tiring Seattle defense, which had some success overloading the left side of San Francisco's line before the 49ers finally wore down the Seahawks. Tony Wragge did a fine job at center after replacing Heitmann, and Larry Allen showed some stamina by finishing the game with some pancake blocks.

PASSING DEFENSE: A -- The pass defense gave up some yards and first downs, but when the 49ers needed a big play, they got it. The 49ers sacked Seattle Matt Hasselbeck three times and forced him into some poor decisions and incompletions as he ultimately completed just 20 of his 37 passes. Safety Mark Roman and cornerback Shawntae Spencer both had big interceptions. Roman's came in the end zone early in the third quarter, and Spencer's set up a touchdown drive late in the game while thwarting Seattle's final chance to get back in the contest. Both players were ballhawks throughout the game, with Roman finishing with three passes defensed and Spencer two in his return from a three-game layoff due to an ankle injury. Cornerback Walt Harris also had another strong game and forced a fumble, and safety Keith Lewis had a devastating hit late in the game to go along with six tackles. Mike Adams and Chad Williams also got into the act with five tackles each as the 49ers often stymied the Seahawks with defensive sets featuring five defensive backs.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A-minus -- The 49ers limited reigning NFL MVP Shaun Alexander to 73 yards rushing as he averaged just 3.2 yards on his 23 carries. Aside from a first-quarter drive in which Alexander piled up some yards, the 49ers' run defense did a good job of controlling that aspect of the game, and Alexander only had 16 yards rushing in the consequential second half. One of the key sequences in the game came in the fourth quarter when the defense stopped Alexander for no gain on third-and-1 at the San Francisco 27-yard line, then stuffed fullback Mack Strong for no gain on a fourth-and-1 when the Seahawks were trying to drive for a go-ahead touchdown. That preserved a 10-7 lead and allowed the 49ers to take control of the game. Brandon Moore had another big performance with a game-high 10 tackles, and the 49ers had nine players with four tackles or more as everybody got in on the act of stuffing Seattle's run game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The 49ers did absolutely nothing moving the football in the first half, but they scored their first points of the game after Michael Robinson gained 33 yards on a fake punt to stay within 7-3 at halftime. Punter Andy Lee continued his strong play and did a fine job in the wet conditions, averaging 45.0 yards, including an outstanding net average of 40.8. Joe Nedney made the only field-goal attempt of the game, a 39-yarder in blustery conditions. Long-snapper Brian Jennings also played an integral role in the victory with his clean snaps in the inclement conditions and three tackles on special teams, including one that forced a fumble. Nate Burleson had a 39 yard kickoff return, but the Seahawks didn't do much else in their return game.

COACHING: A -- Offensive coordinator Norv Turner stuck with his game plan, and in the fourth quarter it finally paid off. Smith and Gore rose to the occasion in the final period and it produced a breakthrough victory for the team. Smith's bootleg on a third-and-8 from the 18 was a fantastic call, as he went untouched into the end zone and Seattle defenders didn't even realize he had the ball until he was approaching the end zone. Defensively, the 49ers made some dramatic changes to their defense in the short week. They went with primarily five and six defensive backs and played coverage against the Seahawks' quick receivers. It was a fine effort all around and great coaching to get a bounce-back victory on the road against the defending NFC champions to end a three-game losing streak.


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