Grading the NFC West: Week 4

Handing out grades to the 49ers' three divisional rivals in the NFC West for their performances in Week 4 games:


PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Except for one interception where Matt Hasselbeck failed to see a lurking linebacker, his effort was nearly flawless, as he finished with two TDs and 281 passing yards while completing 23 of 31 passes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- As the 49ers committed eight defenders to the line of scrimmage, the Seahawks averaged a mere 2.5 yards per carry.

PASSING DEFENSE: A -- CB Marcus Trufant had his best day as a Seahawk, coming up with a pair of interceptions and four passes defensed. Former 49er Julian Peterson was dominant with three sacks and two forced fumbles.

RUSHING DEFENSE: B -- Frank Gore finished with a 4.9-yard average, but he didn't gash Seattle the way he did last season.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Seahawks' coverage units were not sharp, and once again they got a punt blocked, this time because of a low snap.

COACHING: B -- The Seahawks came out with a blitz-happy defensive scheme and were certainly motivated to play with intensity from the start.


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- QB Marc Bulger passed for 114 yards, was sacked three times and threw an interception before leaving in the third quarter. The Rams only had the ball for 11 plays the rest of the game, and Gus Frerotte didn't fare much better, completing three of six passes for 29 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- With Steven Jackson sidelined by a groin injury, rookie Brian Leonard started and had some moments. He rushed for 58 yards on 16 attempts (3.6-yard average) with a long of 11 yards. backup Travis Minor was ineffective with six yards on four carries, including a loss of one yard in the first quarter on a third-and-15 draw play from the Dallas 49-yard line.

PASSING DEFENSE: D -- The Rams were burned by Patrick Crayton, who had 184 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. His big plays broke open the game in the third quarter. The Rams did a good job on Terrell Owens, limiting him to three receptions for 33 yards, but TE Jason Witten had six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C -- Once again, the totals are bad thanks to being gashed in the second half. RBs Marion Barber and Julius Jones each had 11 yards on five carries in the first half. But Barber had 39 yards on three third-quarter attempts that led to the Cowboys' final touchdown. In the fourth quarter, as Dallas bled the clock, Jones gained 40 yards on seven carries and Tyson Thompson added 47 yards on eight attempts. That's 87 of the Cowboys' 171 rushing yards in the final quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The bright spots were the punting of Donnie Jones and the kick returning of Dante Hall. Hall accounted for the team's only points with an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown. He also averaged 30.2 yards on five kickoff returns and had 262 return yards compared to the team's 187 offensive yards. Jones had four punts of 60 yards or more, and averaged 55.3 with a 44.6 net for the day. Negatives were 45 yards on two punt returns by Crayton, and a missed 28-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins.

COACHING: C-minus -- Injuries have decimated the team, but the decision to play Bulger for two weeks is highly questionable with Frerotte healthy. As a questionable replay challenge on an incomplete pass seems to illustrate, the staff is getting the deer-in-the-headlights look.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Nothing fancy, but it was productive. QBs Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart combined for 225 yards, and Warner had a touchdown pass. There were no interceptions and only one sack.

RUSHING OFFENSE B -- Edgerrin James didn't gain 100 yards, but then, no one does against the Steelers. But the run game was productive and consistent.

PASSING DEFENSE: B -- CB Eric Green was beaten for a 43-yard touchdown, but the Cardinals had two picks and sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A -- Willie Parker led the league in rushing entering the game, but he gained just 37 yards on 19 carries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Cardinals returned a punt for a touchdown for the first time in 14 years, and the coverage teams were good.

COACHING: A -- The defensive game plan was effective, and coach Ken Whisenhunt made some gutsy calls, such as going for the first down on fourth-and-1 from the Steelers 24 late in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals ended up scoring a touchdown.

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