49ers report card

Those D's clinging to the 49ers this week don't just stand for disappointment. They also represent the majority of San Francisco's grades for its performance in a 26-20 loss to Arizona that eliminated the Niners from playoff contention.

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked four times and threw a costly interception that was partly his fault, due to a high throw, and partly the responsibility of Frank Gore, whose hands the pass slipped through. Tight end Vernon Davis made some nice catches, but he also had a couple drops, as did fill-in starter Bryan Gilmore, who could have hauled in a second-quarter TD pass. Smith completed 18 of 29 passes for 190 yards with one interception and a passer rating of only 66.7. Arnaz Battle matched his career high with seven receptions, but they netted only 55 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The game started with Gore ripping off consecutive gains of 11 and 15 yards on the first two plays from scrimmage. But Gore didn't have much going on the rest of the afternoon as he had only 25 yards rushing the remainder of the game. He did score on two short touchdown runs, though. Gore managed 51 yards on 11 carries, but after the first couple plays, the run game did not put the offense in good position on early downs to keep the chains moving, and then the 49ers had to go away from their top weapon and offensive strength after falling behind by 17 points in the second quarter.

PASSING DEFENSE: D-minus -- The main problem was the lack of a pass rush against quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner. Niners defensive end Roderick Green recorded the only two sacks of the game for San Francisco. But generally there was not much of a pass rush, which forced the 49ers' secondary to cover Cardinals wideouts Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson far longer than possible. The Cardinals quarterbacks combined for a 115.4 passer rating.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C -- The 49ers did not allow Edgerrin James to tear off huge chunks of yardage, but when the Cardinals needed to convert on third downs and near the goal line, the 49ers could not stop them. James finished with 105 yards, but it took him 29 carries to get there. Defensive linemen Marques Douglas and Isaac Sopoaga showed some flashes with tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The linebackers did not do a good job of attacking the line of scrimmage against the run, though. Linebacker Brandon Moore made some plays and had a game-high 11 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- The 49ers had a chance to turn the momentum of the game when they created a turnover from a fumbled punt. Moore made the hit that caused a fumble on Troy Walters' return. Then, Maurice Hicks eventually wrestled the ball away from a Cardinals player at the bottom of the pile. Hicks also averaged 35.3 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 64-yarder in the fourth quarter and a 38-yarder. Joe Nedney made good on both of his field-goal attempts, while Andy Lee averaged 49.3 yards on four punts with a net average of 37.3.

COACHING: D -- Coach Mike Nolan and his staff are ultimately responsible for the temperament of the team, and the 49ers did not look ready to play in the first half. There was a lack of emotion, as they fell behind 20-3 in the second quarter. Some adjustments were made against the Cardinals in the second half, but the club was unable to dig out of a sizable hole to pull out a victory that it needed in order to keep its playoff hopes alive.

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