SANTA CLARA – These are the grades for the 49ers’ ninth loss in a row – the team’s longest losing streak since 1978.
QUARTERBACK: A-minus/F. Colin Kaepernick played really well in the first half. Then someone locked him in a closet at halftime, and an imposter stole his jersey and snuck onto the field for the second half – the fifth game in a row this has happened. No one on the 49ers’ sideline seemed to notice, though. The imposter – who happens to look exactly like the real Kaepernick – missed 10 of his first 12 passes. After the game, he was laughing at his locker. This could not have been our Colin. He would never act like that in a sad, somber, losing locker room. Someone please look for him. He’s trapped in a dark room by himself somewhere.
RUNNING BACKS: B+. Shaun Draughn caught a touchdown pass, and Carlos Hyde ran hard in an NFL game for three full quarters – a personal best. Good going, Carlos.
WIDE RECEIVERS: F. Someone named Chris Harper caught two passes for 35 yards to lead all receivers, and Jeremy Kerley caught no passes on six targets. Torrey Smith, allegedly the team’s No.1 receiver, missed the first game of his NFL career. Which was news to me. I hadn’t noticed him on the field all season.
TIGHT ENDS: B. Garrett Celek tackled his own player at least once. He’s terrible. The other tight end, Vance McDonald, actually is quite good. He caught three passes for 46 yards and scored a touchdown. And he would have been even more productive if only he had a real quarterback to throw him the ball.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D. Allowed five sacks. After one of them, every offensive lineman except the rookie, Joshua Garnett who helped Kaepernick up, turned their backs on Kaepernick and walked away from him.
DEFENSIVE LINE: F. Allowed a running back to gain at least 100 yards on the ground for the eighth time in the past nine games, and laid only three hits on Tom Brady. Also gave up during the second half.
LINEBACKERS: F. What I said about the defensive line.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: F. Allowed four touchdown catches and intercepted zero passes. Eric Reid, the defense’s most consistent player according to defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, missed four tackles. Actually, “missed” is the wrong word. He avoided four tackles. Simply wanted no part of the Patriots’ big running back LeGarrette Blount, or even their little slot receiver, Julian Edelman. Hey, at least Reid was consistent. He left the game during the fourth quarter after tearing his bicep.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Phil Dawson made the 400th field goal of his career. Congratulations on your historic day, Phil.
COACHES: A+. And congratulations to Chip Kelly as well. He became the first head coach in 49ers history to lose nine games in a row. It’s rare when the 49ers make any kind of history these days. Afterward, Kelly blamed the rain, the wide receivers and the overall execution of his players for the loss. He never blames himself, even though the 49ers have scored only 16 points in the third quarter of all games this season.
And why should Kelly blame himself? He is without a doubt the best head coach I ever have covered. Every decision he makes is perfect. Just ask him. He has a reason for everything that goes wrong. He is in total control of the situation. No one is more convincing.
Give Chip a round of applause.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.