Grading the NFC West: Week 16

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 16 games.


PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Marc Bulger was near perfect, completing 25 of 38 passes for 388 yards and four touchdowns for a passer rating of 134.5. The line protected Bulger well, as he was sacked just once. With constant double coverage on WR Torry Holt, Bulger hit WR Isaac Bruce for 148 yards and a touchdown on nine catches. RB Steven Jackson had six catches for 102 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Rams rushed for 197 yards, 150 by Jackson on 33 carries. Stephen Davis added 13 yards on three attempts. Jackson scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime with a 21-yard score.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Rams didn't have much of an answer for TE Chris Cooley, who had seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, but QB Jason Campbell was able to complete only three passes for WR Santana Moss for 29 yards. Moss was the only wideout to catch a pass. The Rams stopped the Redskins on six third-down passing plays.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- RB Ladell Betts did run for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts and T.J. Duckett added an 11-yard touchdown. However, key plays in the game were S Oshiomogho Atogwe's strip of Betts late in the fourth quarter and a thirtd-and-1 stop of Duckett on Washington's only possession in overtime.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- There was a blocked punt that led to a Redskins touchdown, four punt returns by Shaun McDonald for minus-1 yard, a missed 41-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins that would have won the game for the Rams in regulation, some poor Matt Turk punts as well as bad kickoff returns by Willie Ponder that consistently had the Rams starting drives inside their own 20-yard line. But McDonald ended the day for the special teams in fine fashion, returning a punt 33 yards in overtime that set the Rams up at the Washington 39-yard line. Five plays later, Jackson scored the game-winning touchdown.

COACHING: A -- Head coach Scott Linehan stayed calm and kept his team focused on each game, despite a brutal stretch that turned a 4-1 record into 5-8. But the Rams have won straight games, and will still have a shot at a playoff spot when they take the field against Minnesota if the Giants lose to Washington on Saturday night.


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- WR Deion Branch dropped six passes. Seattle allowed six sacks. QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed two interceptions. Mike Holmgren's offense can't function very well with those numbers.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- No complaints here. RB Shaun Alexander ran hard and ran well against the Chargers. He had impressive touchdown runs of 33 and 9 yards as part of his 140-yard total. Seattle joined Denver as the only teams to top 150 yards rushing against the Chargers this season.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Two plays ruined a near-perfect day of pass defense by Seattle. Both resulted in touchdowns. SS Michael Boulware blew the coverage on the Chargers' 37-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining. Allowing such a play was inexcusable in that situation given that San Diego needed a touchdown, not a field goal. All Boulware had to do was defend the end zone.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Seattle became the third team this season to keep LaDainian Tomlinson out of the end zone. The Seahawks allowed Tomlinson to break free for a 62-yard run in the second quarter. They were fortunate to have a facemask penalty wipe out what would have been a 48-yard touchdown run by Tomlinson in the third quarter. Other than those lapses, the Seahawks kept Tomlinson in check.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- A questionable holding call wiped out Nate Burleson's 96-yard kick return for a touchdown. Seattle had a few additional penalties on special teams and Burleson used poor judgment in when to field punts. On the up side, P Ryan Plackemeier came within a yard of the franchise record with a 72-yard punt.

COACHING: B -- The Seahawks were ready to play. They stuck with the running game and it paid off. Holmgren and the offensive staff put receivers in position to make big plays. It wasn't their fault that Deion Branch dropped four passes. Holmgren also successfully challenged a crucial ruling that would have given San Diego possession in Seattle territory had the play stood. The defensive plan made sense, but coaches paid a heavy price for leaving Boulware on the field when the Chargers basically had to score a long touchdown pass to win the game. Boulware has been a liability in pass coverage all season.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Nothing spectacular, but the Cardinals made some big plays downfield, and they had no interceptions. The pass protection wasn't great.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Edgerrin James ran for more than 100 yards for the third time this season, and the Cardinals were able to run out the final five minutes of the game.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Cardinals sacked Alex Smith four times in the first half and intercepted a pass. The also made some nice hits and big plays in the secondary.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- It was decent, although the 49ers couldn't stay with the run because they fell behind by two scores.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Neil Rackers made four field goals, and the punt coverage was solid. The kickoff coverage is still a weakness, however.

COACHING: A -- This team doesn't always play smart, but it usually plays hard for coach Dennis Green. He's done a nice job of keeping this group together through some difficult times. The game plans were solid, too.

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