Grading the NFC West: Week 1

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 1 games:


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- QB Matt Leinart was not sharp and the receivers had trouble getting open, and this was supposed to be the strength of the team. Leinart completed just 14 of 28 passes for 102 yards, and the 49ers limited Arizona's top three wideouts - Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson to a combined 54 yards receiving.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Edgerrin James was effective most of the evening and the line did a good job. But the club couldn't put the game away in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals rolled up 161 yards rushing and a 4.2 average with James collecting 92 yards on 26 carries.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The 49ers struggled until the final possession, and then it was Alex Smith's legs, not his arm, that did the damage.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Anytime Frank Gore gains just 55 yards and averages only 3.1 yards a carry someone did a good job. The Cardinals did a very good job in shutting down one of the NFL's best rushing attacks from 2006, clogging the middle and not letting Gore get to the second level.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Just average. No big plays from the return units which were held in check. The coverage teams were solid and there were no major screw-ups.

COACHING: C -- The defensive game plan was solid and there was some creativity on offense. But please explain why the team's best pass rusher, Bertrand Berry, isn't in the game much in the final minutes.


PASSING OFFENSE: C -- QB Marc Bulger has never played well against the Panthers, and this game was no different. He completed just 22 of 42 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and a passer rating of 70.2. The longest play from scrimmage was an 18-yard pass to WR Torry Holt, who caught eight passes for 73 yards. The Rams tried to get to RB Steven Jackson frequently, but he was blanketed by either LB Dan Morgan or LB Thomas Davis, and caught just one pass for three yards. TE Randy McMichael was not the target of any passes until late in the fourth quarter when he had two receptions for 24 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jackson had 31 yards on the first touchdown drive, but totaled just 27 yards on 11 carries the rest of the game. Most damaging were two lost fumbles in the third quarter that helped turned the momentum in Carolina's favor. Jackson fumbled just four times all last season, losing two of them, a total he matched in just one game this season.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Generally solid except for the 68-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Steve Smith. Smith totaled just 50 yards on his other six receptions and Delhomme passed for 133 other yards. But Delhomme also connected with Drew Carter on touchdown passes of 10 and nine yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Once the Panthers got the lead, they gashed the Rams on the run, especially in the fourth quarter. Carolina rushed for 186 yards, 72 in the final quarter. DeShaun Foster (17-94) and DeAngelo Williams (15-62) combined for 156 yards on 32 attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Dante Hall had an 84-yard kickoff return, the Rams' coverage units were solid, giving up an average of just 7.0 yards per punt and 21.3 per kickoff return. PK Jeff Wilkins was perfect on two field-goal attempts.

COACHING: C -- There were some strange play calls on third down, where the Rams were two for 11 after converting their first five tries. There still seems a reluctance to incorporate the tight end into the passing game, although McMichael was used in pass protection in the second half after Adam Goldberg replaced Orlando Pace at left tackle.


PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Matt Hasselbeck was accurate and efficient, finishing with a rating of 113.5. The only negative was the inability to get a completion to flanker Deion Branch.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Shaun Alexander went over 100 yards and picked up steam in the second half as the line grew more effective.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Hawks kept them out of the end zone, but cornerback Kelly Jennings had troubles with Bucs WR Joey Galloway.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Carnell Williams had a long gain of 20 yards, but the Bucs picked up only 90 on 23 attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Nate Burleson's 56-yard punt return was one of the game's highlights, but the returns and coverage units were not consistently sound.

COACHING: B-plus -- Most of what the Hawks showed worked. Also, they outscored the Bucs 10-0 in the second half after making halftime adjustments.

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