49ers report card

Handing out another set of shoddy grades to the 49ers for their performance in a 31-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

PASSING OFFENSE: D-minus -- Alex Smith should get a courage medal for playing the entire game in pain and standing up to a lot of hits, but he looked like a quarterback coming back from injury that should have taken another week off. He sprayed the ball wildly most of the afternoon, missing wide-open receivers as 10 of his passes sailed high. Smith separated his right shoulder a month ago and looked like he still was being hampered somewhat by the condition. He completed 22 of 43 passes for 190 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, but for most of the day he was either bad or ineffective with nine completions and 74 yards coming on San Francisco's final drive of the game. The pass protection was pretty good - Smith was sacked twice - but the receivers did not give Smith a lot of help by dropping some balls. A bright spot was tight end Vernon Davis, who had a career-high six receptions for 71 yards and caught Smith's only touchdown pass.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- The running game continues to show no signs of its formidable play of last year and was almost non-existent. The holes once again just weren't there against a good Saints rushing defense. Frank Gore, playing on a sprained ankle, gained just 41 yards on 12 carries and saw his NFL-best streak of 25 consecutive games with at least one 10-yard run finally come to an end. The running game was never really a factor after the 49ers fell behind quickly and were forced to play catch-up. New Orleans loaded the box early like most teams this season and the 49ers again couldn't do anything against that approach. Maurice Hicks carried twice and had a 13-yard run, but his other carry resulted in a lost fumble that helped New Orleans build momentum in the early going.

PASSING DEFENSE: F -- Drew Brees, either sitting in the pocket or moving on rollouts, had plenty of time to pick apart the San Francisco defense as the 49ers' anemic pass rush put no pressure on the Saints' quarterback. The 49ers didn't record a sack and were credited with just one hit on Brees the entire afternoon, and the coverage on the backside was the worst it has been for the 49ers this season. Brees completed 31 of 39 passes for 336 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a gaudy passer rating of 136.8. Nate Clements had a decent game and stripped Marques Colston of the ball for a fumble after a short completion that set up San Francisco's first points. But the Saints went after cornerbacks Walt Harris and Shawntae Spencer, and the 49ers paid for it several times.

RUSHING DEFENSE: D-minus -- The 49ers did not hold up well here, either, when it still was a game and the Saints were mixing in runs to keep their offense flowing. Reggie Bush had his way with the 49ers in the first half and finished with 64 yards rushing on just 10 carries. The run defense improved in the second half - the Saints finished with a 3.8 average on their 27 carries - but it wasn't there when it counted.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Punter Andy Lee once again came through with a big game with a 46.4-yard average and 40.4 net on seven punts, placing three of them inside the 20. Other than that, the 49ers weren't as good as usual on their specialty units. Joe Nedney bounced a kickoff out of bounds after San Francisco's first score, and the 49ers had back-to-back penalties on onside kickoff attempts late in the game. The 49ers did not start one drive outside their 30-yard line after New Orleans' six kickoffs, though Michael Lewis did break loose for a 23-yard punt return. The coverage units again played well when called upon.

COACHING: F -- It's difficult to imagine the 49ers looking much worse, and they did not appear prepared to play in practically every phase in a home game that was crucial to their hopes of turning around this season. It was a dubious decision to keep Smith in the game when it got out of reach as he was in obvious pain. Was it really that important to see him tough it out in a lost cause? The strategy to go with five defensive backs most of the game did little to stop the Saints or even slow them down. The time management and use of timeouts - not that it mattered in the outcome - was very poor. The 49ers also are becoming so predictable in some areas that it's almost as though opponents know what's coming. The 49ers were in complete disarray Sunday, and it all starts here.

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