Grading the NFC West: Week 15

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional opponents in the NFC West for their performances in Week 15 games.


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed two interceptions, including one in the red zone, as Seattle's offense failed to capitalize on several opportunities. The defense played great for three quarters, limiting the 49ers to a field goal during that span. The offense simply could not take advantage. WR Deion Branch and TE Jerramy Stevens dropped third-down passes on the first two drives.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Seahawks failed on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 rushes on back-to-back plays. RB Shaun Alexander fumbled and was fortunate a teammate recovered. RG Chris Gray had his hands full with 49ers DT Bryant Young, as expected. TE Jerramy Stevens isn't giving the team much in the way of blocking.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Seattle's defense held the 49ers to 1-of-11 on third-down conversions before San Francisco converted on its final six chances. The defense simply wore down after playing very well for three quarters. Alex Smith tossed two fourth-quarter scoring passes, and Seattle failed to sack him when given clear shots.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The run defense buckled in the fourth quarter after Seattle's offense failed to sustain drives over the first three quarters. Niners RB Frank Gore did just about all of his damage in the fourth quarter, finishing with 144 yards on the ground. MLB Lofa Tatupu was playing one of his better games this season until the late collapse. San Francisco gained a 33-yard chunk of rushing yardage on a fake punt that worked beautifully.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- K Josh Brown did not attempt a field goal for the second consecutive week. P Ryan Plackemeier finished with a 28-yard net average, in part because the 49ers deflected one of his punts, resulting in a 13-yarder. WR Nate Burleson put up mediocre numbers in the return game, making one poor decision and fumbling another time. The 49ers' fake punt also hurt.

COACHING: C -- The defensive plan was outstanding. Seattle used a 4-4-3 defense on first down to put the clamps on Gore. Seattle also drew up a key fourth-quarter blitz that should have produced a sack, only to have CB Kelly Herndon miss the quarterback with a weak arm tackle. The defense wore down more than anything. The scheme was sound. Offensively, Holmgren took a chance by going for it on fourth-and-1 even though Seattle was in field-goal range. The play did not work.


PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- QB Marc Bulger attempted just 22 passes, completing 11 for 137 yards and was sacked four times, making the team's net passing total just 103 yards. However, Bulger was able to get the ball to Torry Holt for a 21-yard play and Isaac Bruce for 41. Those two plays accounted for 62 of the 137 passing yards. Bulger did not throw an interception for the eighth game this season.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. The Rams had 32 rushing attempts by running backs and established the ground game in the first half when RB Steven Jackson had 80 yards on 18 carries. Most of Jackson's yards came up the middle, behind the inexperienced line trio of guards Mark Setterstrom and Richie Incognito and center Brett Romberg.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Rams had three interceptions, limited QBs Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter to passer ratings below 50.0 and the duo's combined 25 completions totaled 229 yards, less than 10 yards per reception. Of Walter's 131 yards, 111 came on the Raiders' final two possessions.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- It was against the Raiders' poor run offense, but the Rams still did the job. Running backs accounted for 47 yards on 16 attempts, and the defense forced a Zack Crockett fumble on a 1st-and-10 play from the Rams' 13-yard line when the score was still 13-0 in the third quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- P Matt Turk had a 74-yard punt, the third-longest in club history and the longest since 1948, as well as averaging 49.8 yards on five punts with two inside the 20. Two punts were returned for a total of five yards, and long snapper Chris Massey recovered a muff by Raiders returner Chris Carr. Turk also ran 16 yards for a first down on a fake punt. K Jeff Wilkins was 2-for-2 on field goals and kickoff coverage was solid, one week after Chicago's Devin Hester returned two for touchdowns.

COACHING: B-plus -- Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett designed a plan that capitalized on the weaknesses of Raiders QB Aaron Brooks, while offensive coordinator Greg Olson stuck with the running game even when it was getting minimal yardage at time. Coach Scott Linehan had the team ready to play on a West Coast road trip on a short week after a Monday night game.


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Quarterback Matt Leinart was intercepted twice and he had trouble getting the ball to receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald because they couldn't get open.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Edgerrin James rushed 14 times for 63 yards, a 4.5-yard average. But the Cardinals fell behind by two scores and couldn't stick with the run.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Cardinals allowed rookie Jay Cutler to throw for two touchdowns and 261 yards. The Broncos receivers had no trouble getting open.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Broncos rushed for jut 2.8 yards a carry but they were able to run it 38 times and scored two touchdowns.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The kickoff coverage was horrible, and a penalty nullified a 40-yard field goal. Neil Rackers missed a 50-yard field goal.

COACHING: D -- The Cardinals were beaten by a better team but they were also out-coached. The play-calling was suspect at times.

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