49ers report card

Handing out grades to the 49ers for their dismal performance in a 23-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks that dropped them out of first place in the NFC West.

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- San Francisco's floundering passing game did no better with the unexpected change from Alex Smith to Trent Dilfer. It did worse. The offensive line was horrible, allowing six first-half sacks and accounting for seven of San Francisco's nine penalties - including several holding calls that just backed up the 49ers further. Smith was knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder on the first sack - which came just three plays into the game - and backup Dilfer was sacked five times, threw two momentum-killing interceptions and did not do an adequate job of managing the team. There were also a couple dropped passes, including one by Taylor Jacobs that probably cemented the decision to release him two days after the game. Starting wideouts Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle had six receptions but for just 57 yards. Dilfer completed just 12 of 33 passes for 128 yards and compiled a passer rating of 23.3. Smith had a higher passing rating (39.6) simply by throwing incomplete on the one pass he attempted before being injured. This is about as bad as it gets, and for a team that has been bad through the air all season, that's saying something.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus -- Frank Gore ran hard despite again having very little room to make things happen, finishing with 79 yards on 16 carries and giving the 49ers a few of their few-and-far-between offensive sparks. But Gore had two fumbles on San Francisco's first three offensive series - losing the first one - which set the 49ers back when it still was a scoreless game, though Seattle ended up punting after each of its next two possessions. The 49ers averaged 5.7 per rush on their 19 carries, but they got very few meaningful yards here, and 28 of them came on the final play of the first half when Michael Robinson took a handoff on second-and-20 from the 49ers' 40-yard line and had some clear field against a Seattle defense that had several players backed up to the goal line. The 49ers once again couldn't get anything going in a dimension of their offense that carried the team last season.

PASSING DEFENSE: C-minus -- The 49ers had some success here early but ultimately could not hang against a quality Seattle passing game that kept applying pressure on San Francisco's secondary until the outcome was decided. The 49ers got two coverage sacks on Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, but he basically had too much time to throw as the San Francisco pass rush was weak. The 49ers played five defensive backs for most of the game and rushed four linemen, but Seattle receivers had too much time to get open against the 49ers' defensive backs. Nate Clements had an interception that set up San Francisco's only points but also was beaten by Deion Branch on a 65-yard play that set up Seattle's first touchdown. Hasselbeck completed 23 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns as the Seahawks set the tone with their passing game and carried it throughout the afternoon.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A -- There is nothing to downgrade the 49ers about here as they shut down a quality back in Seattle's Shaun Alexander, who averaged 3.1 yards on his 25 carries. As a team, the Seahawks gained just 93 yards on 37 carries, a 2.5 average, and finished with just four rushing first downs. The 49ers used just four defensive linemen and two linebackers on most downs to handle Alexander. Marques Douglas had a strong game on the defensive line with nine tackles and rookie Patrick Willis had another outstanding effort with a game-high 12 tackles. Derek Smith also was active against the run and finished with eight tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- A strong all-around effort here as punter Andy Lee led the way with another standout performance, averaging 54.3 yards on his 10 punts with an equally impressive 44.1 net. Seven of Lee's punts carried 54 yards or further, including a 71-yarder. Kicker Joe Nedney also placed a perfect onside kick that the 49ers recovered to open the second half, and later provided San Francisco's only scoring of the day with a 43-yard filed goal, making him perfect on all his placekicks a quarter of the way into the season. Michael Lewis, signed as a punt returner last week, made some poor decisions to return balls inside the 10-yard line, but he had a 10.5 average on six returns, which is much better than the 49ers ever got from the player he replaced. Keith Lewis got his hand on a punt, resulting in a six-yard kick. The punt team allowed a 27-yard return to Nate Burleson, but otherwise the coverage teams played well.

COACHING: D-minus -- The 49ers made some adjustments at halftime to stop the bleeding along the offensive line, and the Seahawks had no sacks in the second half after recording six before halftime. But, obviously, the line was ill-equipped to handle the Seahawks' defensive pressures at the start when the course of the game was being established. Curiously, offensive coordinator Jim Hostler used very little three-step drops and screen plays to slow down Seattle's pass rush after Dilfer entered the game, continuing to use deep drops that did little to neutralize the stampeding Seahawks. But the bottom line is the 49ers were simply not ready to play in one of the biggest games of the Mike Nolan era, and the buck stops here.


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