49ers report card

Handing out grades to the 49ers for their performance in a 9-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens that left San Francisco at 2-3 during its bye week.

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- The 49ers obviously were not counting on this element of their game as part of their plan to win. Coaches showed absolutely no confidence in Trent Dilfer's ability to make plays with his arm, which just allowed the Ravens to stack the box even more and step a few feet closer to San Francisco receivers, who couldn't get open or gain separation throughout the afternoon - except in the third quarter when the 49ers struck for back-to-back plays that took them 67 yards down the field for their only score. Bryan Gilmore got behind Baltimore's defense and Dilfer showed he could still wing it while taking a big hit for a 42-yard gain, and Arnaz Battle beat corner Chris McAlister on a slant pattern for a 23-yard touchdown on the next play. And that was it. The San Francisco passing game was not heard from again, nor was it heard from before when Dilfer completed just two passes and the 49ers had zero net yards passing in the first half. Dilfer got some decent protection, but receivers just couldn't get open, and the 49ers didn't even bother to try their tight ends, who may have found some room against the defense the Ravens were playing.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- When good defenses gang up against him, Frank Gore has very little room in which to make plays, and that was the case again as the Ravens were waiting for him on every down, whether he got the ball or not. Gore popped a 10-yard run for a first down in the second quarter, and that was basically it. That was San Francisco's only rushing first down of the game as Gore yielded little production while finishing with 52 yards rushing on 16 carries. Things got no better here for San Francisco's beleaguered offensive line, which pretty much was pushed around again here and couldn't get to the second level to put hats on Baltimore's quick, aggressive linebackers. The 49ers tried running a reverse on third-and-2 that was a joke against Baltimore's pursuing defense that dumped Gilmore for an 8-yard loss. Thanks in part to that play, the 49ers finished with 49 net yards rushing on 19 attempts - a 2.6 average.

PASSING DEFENSE: B-minus -- The 49ers generally played well and contained Baltimore here, but the Ravens made plays when they needed it to stay in control. Baltimore averaged just 5.0 yards per pass attempt and its longest passing play went just 18 yards as the 49ers did a good job of keeping plays in front of them. But the Ravens converted several short third-down passes that extended drives and allowed Baltimore to control the ball for a whopping 38 minutes. Needing a stop on third-and-4 with two minutes to play, the 49ers couldn't get it as Steve McNair hit Derrick Mason for that 18-yard play. McNair completed 29 of 43 passes for 214 yards and Mason had 11 receptions, but those numbers didn't get Baltimore in the end zone or much hurt the 49ers. But one number did hurt San Francisco - the 49ers didn't get to McNair once for a sack and he was hit only twice in the pocket the entire day.

RUSHING DEFENSE: B -- The Ravens averaged just 3.1 yards on their 33 rushing attempts. Willis McGahee was a workhorse and had some success as he slammed his body into the San Francisco defense for 88 yards on 22 carries, with his longest run going for 13 yards. Patrick Willis had another big game with 12 tackles (six solo) while Derek Smith also was active while matching Willis for game-high honors (four solo). Michael Lewis also was strong in run support with 10 tackles and Marques Douglas had yet another strong game in the trenches with seven tackles. The Ravens had only five rushing first downs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Punter Andy Lee had another juggernaut afternoon and continues to play at a Pro Bowl level, averaging 51.6 yards on his seven punts with a fabulous 48.7 net. He played a large role in keeping the game close and drilled a season-best 74-yarder while dropping three inside the 20-yard line. Michael Lewis' 11-yard punt return and Maurice Hicks' 29-yard kickoff return were the highlights of a return game that did little else. The 49ers successfully executed another onside kick, and these teams were generally solid if not even better, but there's a big downgrade for Joe Nedney missing the field goal that could have won the game. Sure, it was from 52 yards out, but that was a kick Nedney usually makes, and it ended a string of 18 attempts in a row on which he had been successful.

COACHING: D-minus -- The 49ers believed there was only one way to win this game - by relying on their defense to not only stop the Ravens, but also to create opportunities for their offense. What kind of game plan is that? Coach Mike Nolan's defensive-minded philosophy is obviously not meshing well with the way Jim Hostler is running the offense in his first year as a NFL coordinator, and something has to change in the way they work together. On one of the few opportunities the 49ers had the entire day, they basically sat on the ball after getting into the outer-reaches of Nedney's field-goal range, then asked him to hit a 52-yarder when they could have put him in much better position. It definitely was another day of playing not to lose instead of playing to win on offense, and that is reflected in the fact San Francisco is off to the worst offensive start of any NFL team in the past 30 years. The 49ers apparently are lacking in overall offensive talent, but coaches are giving that unit little chance to succeed, and it comes back and bites the 49ers in the end. On the bright side, Greg Manusky's defensive game plan again was solid, and he again was able to dial up some success even though the third-down pass rush let down both him and the 49ers again. Does Manusky know anything about offense?



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