49ers report card

Handing the best set of grades to the 49ers this season for their performance in a thrilling 37-31 overtime victory against the Arizona Cardinals.

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Trent Dilfer and the passing game finally found a rhythm. Dilfer completed 25 of 39 passes for 256 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The line generally gave him enough time to throw, though he was sacked three times. Arnaz Battle caught just one pass, but he turned it into a 57-yard touchdown with his catch and run. RB Frank Gore was used as a valuable check-down. Gore caught 11 passes for 98 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Gore went down with an aggravation of his right ankle sprain in the first quarter. He returned on the next series and went on to produce his best game of the season. Gore rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Also, Dilfer picked up a big first down with a 10-yard scramble on his only carry of the game.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Sure, the 49ers surrendered 484 yards passing to Kurt Warner, including a 48-yard desperation touchdown on the final play of the first half. But the team's pass defense also provided the winning points when Ronald Fields sacked Warner and stripped him of the ball in the end zone in overtime. Tully Banta-Cain recovered it for a game-ending touchdown. Also, Walt Harris recorded two interceptions. Nate Clements forced a fumble after a pass completion, allowing Mark Roman to pick it up and return it 43 yards to set up a touchdown.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Cardinals got a few yards on the ground, but the 49ers did well enough in this phase to convince the Cardinals to turn into a one-dimensional offense. Edgerrin James gained 78 yards on 17 carries. The Cardinals did not have a run of longer than 9 yards. Rookie LB Patrick Willis was all over the place with 18 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Again, Andy Lee had a terrific game. His net average of 39.7 yards on six punts won the head-to-head competition with Cardinals P Mike Barr, whose net average was 18.7 on the same number of tries. Michael Lewis returned a punt 51 to set up a field goal. The 49ers failed on a fake punt attempt in the second half.

COACHING: B-plus -- The staff gets a lot of credit for keeping the team together during trying times. Coach Mike Nolan mishandled the last seconds of the first half when he left enough time for the Cardinals to run two plays after a missed long field goal on second down. The Cardinals scored on a Hail Mary. It's doubtful newly hired offensive assistant Ted Tollner had any impact, but things looked better on offense than at any point this season. Offensive coordinator Jim Hostler did a nice job of getting the ball in the hands of his best player, Gore.

Niners Digest Top Stories