49ers report card

Handing out grades to the 49ers for their performance in a wild 33-30 overtime victory against the Seattle Seahawks while breaking down the positives, negatives and bottom line in every area of the team.

QUARTERBACKS -- Grade: A

Positives:
J.T. O'Sullivan stood tough in the pocket all day and made good decisions throughout against a defense that was hell-bent on hounding him on every passing play. His ball security was excellent against a defense that sacked him eight times, and not one of his 32 passes came close to being intercepted. O'Sullivan completed 20 of those throws for 321 yards, giving San Francisco its first 300-yard passer since October of 2004. O'Sullivan averaged 10 yards a pass, an outstanding figure, and had seven completions of 20 or more yards. He also kept plays alive with his feet and had 32 yards rushing on some important scrambles.
Negatives: O'Sullivan held onto the ball too long on some of his throws, resulting in sacks that could have been avoided by throwing the ball away sooner.
Bottom line: Simply put, one of the best winning performances by a San Francisco quarterback over the past six years.


RUNNING BACKS -- Grade: C

Positives:
Frank Gore took a pounding from a defense that made stopping him a priority, but he still made some plays and produced 99 yards rushing and receiving. He broke a 23-yard run and had a 17-yard reception.
Negatives: Gore's second fumble in as many weeks was horrible, and it was returned for a touchdown that could have buried the 49ers midway through the first quarter. The blocking for Gore left a lot to be desired, but he did not find some of the narrow holes that were there as well as he usually does.
Bottom line: Gore has to hold onto the ball and be patient not to run up the backs of his offensive linemen. Twice he has lost fumbles on those kind of plays already this season.


WIDE RECEIVERS -- Grade: A

Positives:
An outstanding day all around. Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson and Arnaz Battle combined for 14 receptions for 275 yards, and they also threw a few blocks downfield. Bruce, not known for his speed at this stage of his career, repeatedly got behind Seattle's defense and each of his four receptions went for better than 25 yards. Johnson also showed the ability to get open on pivotal passing downs. Bruce's average of 38.3 yards per catch will pop out on the statistics sheet for the rest of this week. Rookie Josh Morgan had an eight-yard catch, the first of many career receptions to come.
Negatives: Was there any? As in the opener, receivers need to be aware of coming back to O'Sullivan when plays break down and he has slipped outside the pocket.
Bottom line: Well, it looks like the 49ers finally have a competent group of receivers for the first time since, well, 2003? The team appears to have a top trio of receivers that complement each other well in the passing game.


TIGHT ENDS -- Grade: B

Positives:
Vernon Davis was kept in often to pass block, and his work in protection might have been better than some of the team's offensive linemen. He drew attention in coverage that opened things on the edges for San Francisco's wide receivers.
Negatives: San Francisco's tight ends didn't catch a pass, and the dual receiving threat of Davis/Delanie Walker again failed to materialize. Davis alligator-armed another pass deep down the field and might have been able to make a play with an all-out effort.
Bottom line: The 49ers needed to keep their tight end in to block as a necessity, but Davis is such a threat in the passing game that the team should dial in more plays for him in the game plan, even when other things are working.


OFFENSIVE LINE -- Grade: D

Positives:
The 49ers scored 33 points, finished with 365 yards of offense and 20 first downs and controlled the ball four minutes and 16 seconds more than the Seahawks. The offensive line had to have something to do with that.
Negatives: The breakdowns in protection were rampant. The unit was often overpowered by Seattle's physical and talented defensive line. The 49ers allowed eight sacks, and while all of that was not the line's fault, the figure could have been even worse. "We probably could have had had 13 sacks," Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill said after the game. The unit also was beaten at the point of attack in the run game, with Seattle defenders already in the backfield before several plays could get started. The Seattle defense had 10 – count 'em – tackles for a loss and eight hits on O'Sullivan – count 'em – in addition to the eight sacks. And we haven't even mentioned the multiple penalties charged to this unit yet …
Bottom line: There were multiple problems on this unit throughout most of the afternoon, but it did enough to win in a high-scoring game.


DEFENSIVE LINE -- Grade: D-plus

Positives:
Justin Smith again was extremely active and drew a lot of attention. Ray McDonald, starting at left end in a four-man base set, had five tackles and also deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage that was intercepted. Isaac Sopoaga took on a lot of blockers and helped clog the middle.
Negatives: San Francisco's middle interior was pushed around. The 49ers have to get better from nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, who was swept out of some plays where he is supposed to be clogging a lane and occupying blockers. The pass rush from this unit was not a factor.
Bottom line: A below average performance by this unit in almost every aspect. The Niners start to feel their depth here when they go with a four-man line most of the game.


LINEBACKERS -- Grade: B

Positives:
Patrick Willis recorded his first career interception, then looked like a running back as he weaved his way through defenders and broke tackles during an electrifying 86-yard return for a touchdown – the longest ever for a San Francisco linebacker. Willis also produced a game-high eight tackles. Takeo Spikes displayed some progress in the system with five tackles and also got in on a quarterback hit. Jeff Ulbrich continues to contribute steady play when he's in the game.
Negatives: There were some missed tackles here, and also some instances of getting to the ball late as the Seahawks rushed for 169 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
Bottom line: Not only is he a tackling machine, but Willis also showed that he can make the game-changing play, as the great ones often do.


SECONDARY -- Grade: B-plus

Positives:
Walt Harris and Nate Clements played a lot of man coverage and each had solid games. Harris had an outstanding diving interception and also deflected the pass that Willis intercepted with a well-timed break on the ball. Harris had four tackles and three passes defensed. Clements had seven tackles and also forced a fumble recovered by the 49ers after he had been beaten for a reception. Strong safety Michael Lewis had five tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and was his usual physical presence along the line of scrimmage. Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a 49ers nemesis, completed only half of his 36 passes and had a career-low quarterback rating of 42.5.
Negatives: The Seahawks were able to connect for some passes down the field, but that is going to happen in every game. After Seattle's longest play of the game – a 31-yard reception by Billy McMullen – Clements forced a fumble and the 49ers recovered. Rookie tight end John Carlson found open room to work over the middle and led the Seahawks with six receptions for 78 yards.
Bottom line: A good all-around game against one of the NFL's most consistently productive and resourceful passing attacks.


SPECIAL TEAMS -- Grade: C-minus

Positives:
Joe Nedney split the uprights with the game-winning 40-yard field goal in overtime. He had three other field goals and scored 15 of San Francisco's 33 points. Allen Rossum had a 44-yard kickoff return that got a scoring drive going. Andy Lee had a 46.3-yard gross average on four punts, including a 59-yarder. Manny Lawson blocked a punt that could have been a huge momentum-changer in the early going. Nedney put three of his kickoffs into the end zone and had one touchback.
Negatives: Nedney missed a 41-yard field goal on the final play of regulation, and that could have been a killer. The coverage teams again had huge breakdowns, allowing a 54-yard kickoff return and 30-yard punt return.
Bottom line: Nedney provided the game-winner, but there were several plays that hurt the 49ers here.


COACHING -- Grade: B

Positives:
The 49ers had a plan to beat the Seahawks in a tough road environment and they stuck to it. San Francisco kept the pressure on a good Seattle defense and continued to attack down the field despite breakdowns in pass protection.
Negatives: There were a few clock management issues, and the 49ers had plenty of time and resources to run another play to put Nedney in a better position for his field-goal attempt at the end of regulation. The 49ers took a chance by not putting more pressure on Hasselbeck, but it worked out.
Bottom line: Keeping the team together after falling behind 14-0 with little more than seven minutes elapsed in the game was huge. The 49ers never faltered from their plan and were able to absorb some heavy punching from their opponent, which hasn't always been the case. You don't win a game like this in the hostile environs of Qwest Field unless your coaches have something to do with it.


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