NFC West Report Card: Week 17

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 17 games.


PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Matt Hasselbeck avoided interceptions and Seattle suffered from only one dropped pass. The Bucs registered only one sack and Hasselbeck had great success finding WR D.J. Hackett for big plays. Hasselbeck also effectively used TE Jerramy Stevens, who presents matchup problems for most teams. Using the tight end is important in beating the Tampa-2 defense. Seattle found openings down the middle on its way to 28 first downs.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Seattle stuck with its ground game to move the chains and sustain drives. The team's longest run was only 10 yards, bringing down the per-carry average. But the team ran well enough to control the clock for 37 minutes. C Chris Spencer and LG Rob Sims are physical drive blockers who moved the Bucs around up front. TE Will Heller made some nice blocks in spot duty at fullback.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Bucs WR Joey Galloway got loose early for a 44-yard reception, but the Seahawks played admirably despite losing two more corners to injuries. LB Julian Peterson collected his 10th sack of the season. Seattle flushed QB Tim Rattay from the pocket a few times.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Seattle allowed a 32-yard run, but otherwise the Bucs had trouble getting much going on the ground. MLB Lofa Tatupu continued his improved play, getting off blocks and making sure tackles. LB Leroy Hill also showed more than he has most of the season. DT Rocky Bernard remained active on the interior. The Hawks were particularly effective when the Bucs handed off to FB Mike Alstott.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- K Josh Brown hit all three FG tried while sending three kickoffs for touchbacks. P Ryan Plackemeier effectively sold the officiating crew on a running-into-the-kicker penalty that helped Seattle run out the clock late in the game.

COACHING: A -- Mike Holmgren succeeded in motivating his team for a game that meant nothing in the standings. He also mixed the run and pass effectively, at one point catching the Bucs off-guard with a first-down run from a three-receiver set. The defensive staff weathered the loss of two more cornerbacks. The team stuck with its base defense in nickel situations and it worked. Special-teams coach Bob Casullo gets credit for tightening up a few problems with penalties.


PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- QB Marc Bulger had his eighth game this season with a passer rating better than 100, passing for 248 yards, one touchdowns and no interceptions. WR Torry Holt has nine receptions for 90 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Rams rushed for 168 yards, led by Steven Jackson's 142 on 25 attempts. Jackson also had three rushing touchdowns against a team that had allowed just six rushing scores in 15 previous games.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Rams had two interceptions of QB Tarvaris Jackson and sacked him four times. Jackson passed for 213 yards, but much came in the fourth quarter after the Rams had gone out to a 41-7 lead. Fifty yards came on a pass and run by RB Mewelde Moore in the fourth quarter.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Vikings didn't run much because the Rams raced to an early lead, but when they did, there was little success. RBs Chester Taylor, Artose Pinner and Moore combined for 48 yards on 15 carries. Taylor rushed 15 times for just 29 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- The Rams allowed a 65-yard kickoff return, which was the worst moment. P Matt Turk averaged 47.5 yards on three punts and had a net of 41.3. KR Willie Ponder averaged 25 yards on two returns, while PR Shaun McDonald (2-16) and Dane Looker (1-9) had decent returns. PK Jeff Wilkins, who missed a game-winning 41-yard field goal the week before, made kicks from 42 and 53 yards. It was Wilkins' third successful field goal in as many attempts this season from 50 or more yards. Since 2003, Wilkins has hit an astounding 15 of 17 attempts from 50 or more yards.

COACHING: A -- Head coach Scott Linehan admitted Saturday night it took him "about an hour" to get over the Giants' win over Washington because it meant the Rams had no chance to be in the post-season, no matter what happened Sunday. But when it was time to play the next day, Linehan was able to convey his message that winning is still what's important. The Rams took an early lead over the Vikings, and won going away for the first time this season. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson stayed with the run even when it didn't work, and the result was the most rushing yards against the Vikings this season, and only the third time a team gained 100 or more yards.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Kurt Warner passed for 365 yards but had only one touchdown to show for it. That's been the offense's problem under his direction.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Edgerrin James had some room to run but the team fell behind and couldn't stick with it.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Philip Rivers had too many wide-open receivers and passed for two touchdowns despite playing with an injured foot.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- It was decent, but then San Diego pulled LaDainian Tomlinson at the end of the third quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- A muffed punt by Bryant Johnson resulted in a San Diego touchdown, which helped give the Chargers the game.

COACHING: C -- The game plan was fine, but this team had no sense of urgency when it was trying to score late, and yet another loss led to Dennis Green being fired the next day after three losing seasons in Arizona.

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