NFC West News & Notes - 10/11/05

The Cardinals and 49ers begin to prepare for new challenges in the face of tough losses, the Seahawks look ahead to the Texans after finally beating the Rams, and Seahawks.NET joins the long list of Mike Martz well-wishers.


Seahawks WR Darrell Jackson has decided to have surgery on his right knee. The operation is scheduled for Wednesday and Jackson could miss several weeks. A more precise timetable will not be known until Miami-based orthopedist Dr. John Uribe completes the procedure. Jackson missed the Seahawks' 37-31 victory over St. Louis on Sunday. He still leads the team with 29 receptions.

The decision to undergo surgery came after Jackson suffered a bone bruise in the same knee, most likely during a Week 3 game against Arizona. Team doctors diagnosed the bruise. Jackson subsequently caught seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown during a Week 4 loss to the Washington Redskins.

The knee was hurting more than usual after that game. Jackson sought a second opinion from Uribe one day before the rest of the team left for its game in St. Louis. Jackson had suffered a small tear in his lateral meniscus four years ago. Uribe compared previous MRIs conducted by the team to current MRI results and determined that the tear had gotten larger. The decision was then made to have surgery.

Jackson has 369 career receptions for 5,383 yards and 36 touchdowns. The Seahawks are also minus their other starting receiver, Bobby Engram. But with Jackson and Engram sidelined for the St. Louis game, WR Joe Jurevicius caught nine passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.

QB Matt Hasselbeck set season highs for completion percentage (.711) and yards passing (316).


--A week ago, coach Mike Holmgren was taking heat for being conservative in his play calling during the final stages of the Seahawks' loss to the Redskins. Holmgren seemed to be too aggressive in the final minutes of Seattle's 37-31 victory over the Rams on Sunday. Leading by the final margin with four minutes remaining, Holmgren called three pass plays that went nowhere. He was trying to stay aggressive because he thought his team might need more points to win the game. The move backfired, but Seattle's special teams saved Holmgren by forcing and recovering a fumble on a punt return. The turnover allowed Seattle to run out the lock.

CB Jordan Babineaux forced the fumble. LS J.P. Darche recovered. Holmgren thanked them for "bailing out their old coach."

RB Shaun Alexander was surprised he didn't get the ball in that situation. "Mike and I have been together long enough where I'm like, 'OK, you coach - I'm sure you've got something good up your sleeve,'" Alexander said. "He did. It was a fumble and recovery. Great idea. It definitely surprised me, but you know, it worked. You can't complain."

--SS Michael Boulware was extremely thankful to escape serious injury Sunday. He temporarily lost feeling in his legs after a collision with Rams G Tom Nutten.
Medics strapped Boulware to a board and took him to a hospital for tests. "I could feel them touching my legs, but at that time there was still a lot of tingling going on in my feet," Boulware said. "But after I got in the ambulance, I'd say 95 percent of the numbness and tingling was gone. It was all centered in my lower back."
Boulware might be able to play this week against Houston. "When they start strapping you down, that is never a good feeling," he said. "I was hoping for the best. I kind of left it at that. I just left it out of my hands. God is going to take care of me."


--QB Matt Hasselbeck set season highs for completion percentage (.711) and yards (316) against the Rams while remaining turnover-free for a third consecutive game. Coach Mike Holmgren said Hasselbeck did a great job of staying calm and under control in this game. In the past, Hasselbeck has let his competitive side get the best of him.

--WR Joe Jurevicius eased concerns about injuries to WR Darrell Jackson and WR Bobby Engram. The veteran receiver caught nine passes for 137 yards and a touchdown during Seattle's 37-31 victory at St. Louis. Jurevicius burned the Rams for a 52-yard completion early in the game. He gives the Seahawks a sure-handed option with the size to create mismatches against any cornerback.

--RB Shaun Alexander continues to lead the NFL in rushing. He is running aggressively and scoring TDs at his usual rate.

--SS Michael Boulware should be able to play this week, coach Mike Holmgren said Monday. The news was a bit surprising given that Boulware had been taken to a hospital Sunday after losing feeling in his legs following a collision with Rams G Tom Nutten.

--RT Floyd Womack could be sidelined again after suffering a quadriceps injury Sunday. Womack's injury robs the line of depth, but the Seahawks should be fine as long as none of the starters is injured, particularly a starting tackle.

--LB D.D. Lewis suffered an injured knee, not an injured ankle (as coach Mike Holmgren had indicated Sunday). The team expects Lewis to play this week. Rookie LB Leroy Hill could get more reps, however. Hill looks like starting material.



B-plus -- QB Matt Hasselbeck set season highs for completion percentage (.711) and yards (316) while remaining turnover-free for a third consecutive game. WR Joe Jurevicius used his size to great advantage while catching 9-137-1. Seattle repeatedly deployed Hasselbeck on sprint-outs and bootlegs so he could feed Jurevicius before the defense could react. Jurevicius and TE Jerramy Stevens caught TD passes. WR D.J. Hackett set up a rushing TD by drawing a long interference penalty that moved the ball to the Rams' 1-yard line. Seattle did allow four sacks, a season high, but one of those came on a scramble.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- RB Shaun Alexander topped 100 yards for the third time in five games. He added two more TDs while continuing to break tackles and run with purpose. FB Mack Strong cleared the way on Alexander's 18-yard TD run. Strong is enjoying a Pro Bowl-caliber season and Alexander's stats back him up. Seattle has done a nice job mixing its run-pass tendencies. That continued against the Rams as Alexander picked up a first down on the ground with a 5-yard run to the left side on third-and-4.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Seattle continued to have its problems in coverage. CB Marcus Trufant did not put up much resistance while allowing a long TD pass to Rams WR Torry Holt. Seattle did manage to sack Rams QB Marc Bulger four times, punishing him with a few hard hits. DT Craig Terrill pushed the center back into Bulger on another play, resulting in an incomplete pass. The Seahawks also deployed MLB Lofa Tatupu in the nickel defense. The rookie picked off an intermediate pass over the middle with a diving grab.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Seahawks' run defense continued to play well against conventional running plays. But the Rams did enjoy success with some gimmicky runs that seemed to catch Seattle off balance. That included a 16-yard gain by RB Steven Jackson on fourth-and-1 after Bulger hit him with a sideways pitch-out.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Seattle allowed a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown to open the game. The special-teams play improved from there, however. Newly-signed P Tom Rouen posted a net average above 39 yards while dropping four punts inside the 20. K Josh Brown kicked off well, and he made all three of his FG attempts. The special teams secured the victory by forcing and recovering a fumble on a late Rams punt return.

Coach Mike Holmgren deserves credit for trusting his depleted WR corps. Instead of abandoning the pass, Holmgren came out throwing. The result was a balanced attack that shredded the Rams for 433 yards. The defensive plan featured more effective blitzes than Seattle has utilized in past seasons.


Coach Dennis Green hoped the two games around the bye week would serve as a "slingshot" for his team, propelling them into playoff contention. Instead, the Cardinals lost Sunday to Carolina, 24-20, blowing a chance to stay within a game of division leader Seattle. Slingshots work both ways, the Cardinals found out, and they are now 1-4 for the eighth time in 18 seasons in Arizona.

"You wish it was a video game and you could push the reset button and start all over," said defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Green typically doesn't give the players much time off during the bye, and this year is no exception. The players have a three-day weekend, but they'll practice Wednesday and Thursday.

Coaches are hopeful of getting as many as five players back from injury, including quarterback Kurt Warner, who has missed the last two games with a torn groin muscle. Warner, however, might have lost his starting job to Josh McCown, who has been effective in his two starts. McCown was intercepted three times Sunday, but all three came on tipped passes.

Green said he hasn't decided when he will make a decision. First, Warner has to practice and that might not come until next week. There are other concerns, too, namely a running game that's producing just 3.1 yards a carry. The Cardinals are racking up yards in the air, but next to nothing on the ground.

"I think teams would feel that if they can give up 350 yards (passing) and still win the ball game, most teams would take that," Green said. "Where we hurt ourselves was we didn't score with all that passing yardage and all those receptions."


--Neil Rackers has made his first 18 field goals of the season, extending his franchise record.

--Fred Wakefield, a converted defensive end, started his second game game at right tackle and played well, Green said.
Wakefield didn't yield a sack against Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers, but Peppers did make several tackles on running plays.

--Several fans jeered the Cardinals as they came off the field after losing 24-20 to Carolina. "Fans are yelling at us and telling us how bad we are," said fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo. "We don't want to go out there and flop around, we want to go out there and win."

--Anquan Boldin (10 receptions, 158 yards) and Larry Fitzgerald (9 for 136) because the first two receivers on the same team to have over 100 yards receiving since Tennessee's Kevin Dyson and Derrick Mason did it in 2001. But the Panthers shut down the two receivers in the second half, forcing the Cardinals to run. They couldn't. "Teams start figuring out they can stop the run with their front four," said quarterback Josh McCown. "They drop back and start taking guys away."


--QB Kurt Warner hopes to return after the bye for the Oct. 23 game against Tennessee. It's questionable if that will happen, however. And Warner might have lost his job to Josh McCown.

--QB Josh McCown has thrown four touchdown passes and been intercepted three times in his two starts. But the offense has showed some spark, and that might mean he'll hang on to the job.

--CB Antrel Rolle hasn't yet been placed on IR, as team officials want to see how his knee progresses. The chances of him returning this year, however, are still slim. The team is in the market for a cornerback, and Rolle could be placed on IR to make room.

--CB David Macklin, who was in a couple of plays last week, should be healthy enough to play after the bye. Macklin has been troubled by a sore left hamstring.

--CB Raymond Walls should be able to return from strained muscles in the hip and groin area.

--CB Robert Tate suffered a mild concussion against Carolina, but should be able to practice this week.

--CB Eric Green suffered a shoulder injury Sunday, and his condition is unknown.



B -- Josh McCown completed seven passes of more than 20 yards, but just one in the second half. He also was intercepted three times.

F -- Marcel Shipp had little space to run, gaining just 22 yards on 13 carries. The lack of a running game made it difficult to protect the lead in the second half.

PASSING DEFENSE: C -- Steve Smith caught two touchdown passes, but the Cardinals ran out of cornerbacks and had to put safety Quentin Harris there.

A -- Carolina likes to overpower opponents, but they couldn't get much on the ground against the Cardinals.

B -- Neil Rackers has made 18 straight field goals this season, but the return teams need to make some plays.

Offensively, the Cardinals had a nice game plan and showed creativity, using Boldin as a running back at times. Defensively, coordinator Clancy Pendergast kept the Panthers guessing by varying the looks of his front.


The headline over a recent story published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch concerning the dysfunction in the Rams' front office was: "Malice in the Palace?"

Perhaps it's only coincidence, but since the story was printed, coach Mike Martz missed practice because of a sinus infection, last week missed two practices because of a battle with bacterial endocarditis -- an infection in the lining of the heart, and then Monday the club announced Martz would not coach for an indefinite period of time while he recovers from the illness.

Prior to Sunday's game against Seattle, Martz had an IV to receive treatment, and a trip to see a specialist Monday morning occurred because he was having an adverse reaction to the antibiotics. Martz will be hospitalized for anywhere from 4 to 12 days, and Martz apparently believes he can return in two weeks. Once on the right medication, patients with bacterial endocarditis begin feeling better almost immediately, but rest is mandated for 1-2 weeks. Antibiotics are usually taken for 4-6 weeks to ensure that the infection is totally eradicated. Doctors have told the Rams Martz will miss at least a month.

Club president John Shaw, asked how Martz was doing emotionally and physically, said, "I think he was concerned that he was letting down a lot of people at this time, but also had concern about the gravity of the situation and that he had to be hospitalized."

Martz hadn't been feeling good for four or five weeks, which would have also coincided with a controversial phone call made by club executive Samir Suleiman to St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.

In an Aug. 28 column, Miklasz had written that no matter what disagreements there were with Martz, front-office employees should support Martz and not back-stab him by leaking negative tips to the media. Suleiman was named, along with other members of the front office. In the stunning phone message, Suleiman said, "Tell your source that I'm not a back-stabber, I'm a (expletive) throat slasher, and he'll know the difference before it's all said and done."

In reality, Martz didn't have his throat slashed, but his strength has been slashed because of the effects of his illness. "There is some type of infection in my body that has gotten worse," Martz told the Seattle media during a conference call last week. "They think they've identified what it is. This is something that if you let it go, it could become a real issue. They feel very confident that's what it is, but they have to confirm it. I am going to be very careful with this."

Prior to last Sunday's game against Seattle, Martz worked on the game and practice plan in the morning, but did not attend practice, while waiting for the official diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.

He was at practice Friday and on the sideline for Sunday's loss to Seattle. Afterward, Martz revealed he had begun antibiotic treatment Friday night.
"I feel way better today than I did a week ago, that's for sure," Martz claimed. "I am on the mend. It's over with now. I am just concerned that what has happened to me has affected this team and that breaks my heart. The good news is that we will get better and I will feel a lot better within the next few weeks."

As he often does, Martz publicly fell on the sword, taking one for the team. Concerning the team's defensive woes, Martz said, "I asked our defense to put in a new coverage and I think they threw two touchdowns on that coverage, so that is my fault. I confused them a little bit. I take full responsibility for that. I felt it would help us in the running game. Shouldn't meddle in defense as the head coach. There's the story for that line."

On offense, he said, "I did a bad job of calling plays in the second half, just not good. I would like to think that I could do a better job than that. I feel bad for these players because they played their hearts out, and in certain situations we didn't give them an opportunity... or I didn't.

"I wasn't myself this week. The game plan wasn't clear for me. I probably should have let (offensive coordinator) Steve (Fairchild) call the game. That's just that part that's in me, you want to just bulldog it." But now he is giving in to that bulldog mentality. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt will run the team in his absence, and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild will call the plays.

"We have great offensive coaches, and Mike involves our offensive coaches every week in the game planning," Vitt said. "Steve did a lot of scripting in our mini-camps, in OTAs, and in training camp. All of these guys that are on our offensive staff have been in this system for a long time and this system has been highly successful for a long time. It's a lot of moving parts. Steve is excited about the challenge. Our offensive coaches are all going to blend well together, and we're going to keep moving."

Asked if Martz's absence could be a distraction, Vitt said, "I think it's less of a distraction now. I think now that our players know that he's in the hospital, he's getting treatment, he's not trying to come into work and then leave. I think it's a relief to all of us. He's getting the medical treatment he needs, and we'll move on. I think it has been tough for the last couple weeks. Our players have seen the condition that Mike has been in. They see the look in his eye."

As for how much contact he will have with Martz, Vitt said, "I hope very little. I hope that he stays in the hospital and gets the treatment that he needs and stays away from the game for a while, but he'll probably have me on the phone three or four times a day."


--CB Terry Fair played his first game Sunday since that scary night in Detroit (Aug. 29), where he was temporarily paralyzed in a preseason game against the Lions. He was inactive for the first four games of the season, but was told Friday he would be returning punts. Shaun McDonald entered the game with a 4.9-yard average on seven punt returns.

Fair returned three punts for a 2.3-yard average and should have been on the field for a key late punt return after the Rams forced a punt at the Seattle 19 with 3:03 left in the game. Fair had been on the field for the first time on defense in that Seahawks series, and was the defender on a 20- or 25-yard pass attempt to Peter Warrick.

So, Fair took himself out of the game, saying, "I was winded." McDonald field the punt at the Rams' 40-yard line, went backward one yard where he was hit by Jordan Babineaux and fumbled. Long snapper Jean-Philippe Darche recovered for the Seahawks, and Seattle ran out the clock in a 37-31 victory.

Said Fair, "I just feel terrible that I wasn't out on the field in that situation. It's something you wish you had back. You wish you could have it over, but I feel like maybe I let those guys down as far as me coming out of the game, being tired. I am just disappointed in myself right now."

Explained coach Mike Martz, "He'd been playing defense and he just asked to come out. We don't do that and Terry is not familiar with that. You don't take yourself out. He is new here and this is his first game up. Unfortunately, that's just the way it worked out."

"I just tried to cut back, he got his hand on the ball and it came out," McDonald said. "I have just got to be ready when the play comes."

--The Rams entered the game wanting to get rookie guard Claude Terrell some playing time. In the first half, he replaced right guard Adam Timmerman for one series. In the second half, after the first two series with Timmerman at right guard, Terrell came in and played the rest of the game. "It was kind of strange," Timmerman said. "They didn't really tell me a whole lot. Physically I feel fine."

Timmerman underwent surgery on both shoulders and his foot in the offseason, and practiced on a limited level throughout training camp. Asked why Terrell played so extensively in the second half, Timmerman said, "They just said they didn't want to make a change right now. So I assume that they thought things were going good, and just made the change. But I don't know. They haven't said anything, either, so that's just an assumption on my part."

Timmerman believes he has been coming around since the summer and concluded, "Going off the grades the past few weeks, I've played as good as I always have. So I don't know. I'll have to have some discussions with the coaches, and see what really prompted it."

--The Rams are now looking for a replacement for rookie punter Reggie Hodges, who was waived Monday. Hodges averaged just 33.2 yards on five punts against Seattle, and 20 of the Seahawks' 37 points came after his subpar punts. Said special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, "This is a bottom-line production business. He's good enough to do it, but none of us can afford to learn on the job. We're counting on him to come through." Asked about Hodges after the game, coach Mike Martz said, "I will review that. It's hard to talk about that at this point right after that game. Obviously, he did not kick that well, but we will have to review the tape and see." Said Hodges, "I can't make any excuses. I didn't hit the ball well, plain and simple."


--P Reggie Hodges was placed on waivers Monday after a dismal performance against Seattle. For the season, Hodges averaged just 38.0 yards with a 31.0 net.

--OG Adam Timmerman, who had off-season surgery on his foot and both shoulders, was replaced in Sunday's game against Seattle by rookie Claude Terrell. Coaches had planned to get Terrell some playing time. There were no indications whether this will be a permanent move.

--TE Blaine Saipaia did not catch a pass, but made his debut at his new position against Seattle. Saipaia, who was moved from the offensive line to tight end after the Week 4 game against the Giants, played extensively in two-tight end formations.

--TE Brandon Manumaleuna could be closer to returning from a knee injury. Manumaleuna, who was inactive for the second game Sunday, did some work with the Rams' scout team in practice last Friday.

--FS Mike Furrey saw his most significant action of the season Sunday at his new position. Furrey was switched from wide receiver in the off-season, and took the place of Michael Hawthorne against the Seahawks.



QB Marc Bulger had another big game with 336 yards and had two touchdown passes, but he was sacked four times and two at the beginning of the second half helped Seattle build a 34-21 lead. WR Torry Holt had another 100-yard game, with 126 yards on eight receptions and a 26-yard touchdown catch. WR Isaac Bruce missed his second game because of a toe injury.

Steven Jackson rushed for 77 yards on 17 attempts and scored a touchdown, as he was the only back to get a carry in the game. Marshall Faulk played, but did not have any rushes or receptions in the game.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck passed for 316 yards and two touchdowns, despite being without starters Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram. The defense allowed several plays where receivers were wide open. Joe Jurevicius had nine receptions for 137 yards, and Hasselbeck spread the ball around to eight different receivers. His passer rating for the game was 113.5.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The defense did a decent job on RB Shaun Alexander, even though he totaled 119 yards on 25 attempts and scored two touchdowns. He had 29 yards in Seattle's final drive when they were running out the clock. Safety Mike Furrey badly missed a tackle on Alexander's 18-yard touchdown run.

The positive was a 99-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff of the game by Chris Johnson. The coverage teams were solid. But the punting was awful, and punt returner Shaun McDonald fumbled a punt that prevented the Rams from getting the ball with three minutes left in the game with a chance to win.

COACHING: C -- Coach Mike Martz claimed his illness affected the team last week, and that he confused the defense by adding a coverage. Still, it comes down to players making plays. On defense, an injury to CB DeJuan Groce left the secondary with little depth.


After their fourth consecutive loss, 49ers coach Mike Nolan has a realistic view of what he can expect with rookie quarterback Alex Smith. But his other view of what a realistic goal for his team has not changed. He said the team's goal is still to win the NFC West, even though the 49ers are struggling with a 1-4 record heading into their bye week.

Moreoever, the 49ers have shown no signs of being capable of turning it around.

"I'm not changing our goals," Nolan said. "We're still right there. We're 1-4. I do believe our division will be close to the end. Hopefully, when we turn it around, we'll be right there." Smith made his starting debut Sunday in the 49ers' 28-3 loss to the Colts, a game in which Smith threw four interceptions and lost one of his two fumbles. He was also sacked five times for minus-30 yards, as the 49ers netted just 44 passing yards.

It's all part of the growing pains that Nolan said he is ready to endure with a rookie quarterback.

"Oh, he'll have bad days in the future," Nolan said. "I'd like to see him improve each week, but it would be dreaming for me to think he's not going to have a bad day as we go forward. But I know the strengths he gives us."

Nolan said he continues to be impressed with Smith work ethic and demeanor. Even Smith's teammates said Smith did a good job of maintaining his composure even when he was compiling a horrific 8.5 passer rating. "When you have a vision of what you want it to look like, I don't want it to look like five turnovers, but what I do want a guy in there who is pulling the trigger that you have confidence in and you're going to build on."


--CB Bruce Thornton held Colts WR Marvin Harrison to just two catches for 17 yards, and also recorded an interception in the end zone. Thornton got the start at left cornerback because of injuries to Ahmed Plummer, Mike Rumph, Derrick Johnson and Willie Middlebrooks. Thornton was activated off the practice squad for last week's game against the Cardinals. After his interception, 49ers SS Tony Parrish brought Thornton back to earth, telling him that Peyton Manning and Harrison were tied with Steve Young and Jerry Rice for the NFL record of 85 touchdown hook-ups. He told him to be ready because they would probably be going for the record.

"I let him know that he made a great play, but he can't go to sleep because they'll go back and test him," Parrish said. "He did a great job today. The biggest thing is to step in and do your job, your responsibilities and your techniques. And he did."

--Linebacker Julian Peterson played a handful of snaps, but came out of the game early because of his limitations playing with a right hamstring strain. Receiver Arnaz Battle is listed as doubtful for the Oct. 23 game against Washington with a right knee sprain.

--Left tackle Anthony Clement said he felt a lot better about his performance against Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney than he did in his first start against the Cardinals. Freeney, one of the best pass-rushers in the league, had one tackle, a sack and a forced fumble. "I'm getting used to playing left tackle again," said Clement, who started in place of injured Jonas Jennings. "It's been six or seven years, and I'm getting acclimated to it."


--LB Jeff Ulbrich sustained a left arm injury in which his biceps muscle tore completely off the bone near his elbow. He can opt for season-ending surgery or he can try to play through the pain. However, if he does not have surgery now, the muscle will likely never be able to be attached.

--K Joe Nedney was successful on one of his two onside-kick attempts in the third quarter. For his career, Nedney has converted five-of-12 onside tries. He also made a 30-yard field goal, making him perfect in his only three attempts of the season.

--OLB Andre Carter's 10-yard sack of Peyton Manning was the first the Colts have yielded this season. Carter has 1.5 sacks for the season, ranking him third on the team.

--CB Ahmed Plummer, who underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery two weeks ago, is expected to miss about three more games with his condition. Plummer has already sat out two games.

--LT Jonas Jennings missed his second game with a right shoulder injury. He will remain in the Bay Area during his bye week and try to get his shoulder in condition to play. If it does not improve, he will likely undergo season-ending surgery.



Quarterback Alex Smith, making his first NFL start, posted a measly passer rating of 8.5. Ouch. And that doesn't include the five sacks and one lost fumble he endured as the 49ers were held without a touchdown. Smith completed just one pass to a wideout. The line could not protect him, the receivers could not get open and Smith made more than his share of bad decisions. The 49ers finished the game with just 44 net yards passing, and Smith also threw four interceptions.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Kevan Barlow had a fine statistical game with 99 yards rushing on 18 carries. Frank Gore also showed some nice things while gaining 31 yards on eight rushes. The 49ers had some success on the ground, but they obviously weren't meaningful yards because they were held to just three points. If you're running the ball really well, there should be more points on the scoreboard.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Sure, Peyton Manning completed 74 percent of his passes, but this was not nearly as ugly as it could have been. Four of the 49ers' top five cornerbacks were out with injuries, and recent practice-squad player Bruce Thornton stepped in to play very well. He held Marvin Harrison to two catches for 17 yards and also had an interception. Heck, linebacker Andre Carter even sacked Manning, the first time this season the Colts QB has been thrown. Manning had one TD pass, but also threw two interceptions.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- Edgerrin James rushed for 105 yards, but Jeff Ulbrich also made a nice play to strip him of the football at the goal line, resulting in a touchback. James broke off some long runs early in the game, gaining 63 yards on his first six carries, but the run defense stiffened in the final three quarters.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- The 49ers caught the Colts off guard with an onside kick at the start of the second half. Then, they tried it again and Cody Pickett nearly came up with the ball. The 49ers knew they had to take some chances, and they did. Punter Andy Lee had a pretty good game. The return game was a wash. The 49ers did not give up much, nor did they gain much.

COACHING: B-minus -- The defense had pretty good timing, as they tried not to give Manning a good pre-snap read. They mixed up their coverages and played pretty well on that side of the ball. Offensively, they relied too much on underneath routes. There was only so much they could do because of Smith's inexperience and the problems they had protecting him, but they should have attempted a pass down the field to soften the defense. Top Stories