Grading the NFC West : Week 2

Handing out grades to the 49ers three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 2 games.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Marc Bulger passed for 368 yards and WR Isaac Bruce had eight receptions for 145 yards. However, Bulger was also sacked six times, thanks to the relentless pressure from the 49ers and the Rams' shuffled offensive line. TE Randy McMichael had two receptions early, but by the end of the game, he was needed to help on pass protection.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- RB Steven Jackson started strong like the week before, but wasn't able to finish. Jackson had 12 carries for 43 yards at halftime, and just 17 yards on nine attempts in the second half. Most of the time, there was little room to run.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Except for one 34-yard pass play, the makeshift secondary did a solid job with CB Tye Hill sidelined by bruised ribs and a back injury. CB Ron Bartell was excellent, and the Rams sacked QB Alex Smith four times and limited him to 126 passing yards on 11 completions. Without Jackson's play, the 49ers totaled 92 yards on 10 completions.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- It would have been better were it not for the breakdown that led to a 43-yard touchdown run by Frank Gore on a fourth-and-one play. The Rams ran to the ball and mostly bottled up Gore. He had one other 13-yard run on third-and-18, so 56 of his 81 yards came on two plays. His other 18 attempts gained just 25 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- A mixed bag. The coverage units were good, but the return game was awful. KR Dante Hall muffed a punt, LS Chris Massey had a holding penalty that wiped out a 55-yard punt, and rookie Darius Vinnett had a costly running-into-the-returner penalty that gave the 49ers excellent field position for their first touchdown. Hall totaled eight yards on three punt returns and just 54 yards on three kickoff returns. He wasn't very good, nor was the blocking. One saving grace was PK Jeff Wilkins, who made a 53-yard field goal and nearly hit one from 56 yards.

COACHING: C -- Third-down plays were predictable, although some of that could have been attributed to protection issues. A spike on first down late in the game was unnecessary with more than a minute to go in the game and the Rams at the San Francisco 45-yard line. Coach Scott Linehan was animated in making sure the spike happened when being in control was called for where there was plenty of time to call a first-and-10 play.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Matt Hasselbeck was sharp with a 94.8 passer rating while being sacked only once. Getting the ball to Deion Branch was a goal, and they succeeded. Four drops kept this from being an "A" grade.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Shaun Alexander had a nice 16-yard touchdown run, but he blew his assignment on a key play late in the game that led to a critical fumble.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Hawks pressured Matt Leinart, but didn't sack him once. Tall receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald gave the Seahawks' short cornerbacks problems.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Edgerrin James picked up 128 yards with a 5.3 average. The small Seahawks defense had to get a lot of helmets on James before bringing him down, even with eight in the box at times.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Getting a punt blocked when the Cardinals had a return called is inexcusable.

COACHING: C -- The Hawks showed the capacity to make adjustments while scoring 20 unanswered points in a rally. But they were hardly ready for the game as they fell behind 17-0 in the first half.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Matt Leinart was efficient. He did have one interception but he wasn't sacked and he was excellent on third down.

RUSHING OFFENSE A -- Edgerrin James is showing that last year's problems were a result of poor coaching, not that his skills were diminishing.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- A decent job, although Seattle started picking at the corners in the second half and Matt Hasselbeck was sacked just once.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Cardinals stopped Frank Gore last week and Shaun Alexander last Sunday. Seattle never developed a consistent threat.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- A deflected punt and a downed punt at the 1 led to 10 points. The Cardinals haven't seen that kind of production in forever. The return games are still shaky.

COACHING: A -- The offensive game plan was scaled back, but creative. There was a pass for a touchdown on third-and-one. The defense kept Seattle off balance in the first half. At least this year, the Cardinals have a philosophy and are sticking with it.

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