SANTA CLARA – The 49ers eked out a 22-17 win over the Chiefs Sunday afternoon. But the 49ers should have lost. The Chiefs gave away the game. With four minutes and 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter Kansas City committed one of the stupidest penalties you ever will see: Fourth-and-2 at the Chiefs’ 36-yard line. Phil Dawson was on the field to attempt a 54-yard field goal and, if he made it, the Chiefs still would have had four minutes and three timeouts to drive the field and score a touchdown to win the game. But the Chiefs had 12 men on the field. And the officials noticed. They threw a flag. Automatic first down. That penalty ended up wasting two minutes and all three of the Chiefs’ timeouts. The Chiefs have no one to blame but themselves for losing this game.
With that in mind, here are the 49ers’ grades:
KAEPERNICK: B-. No turnovers. No Delay of Game penalties. No wasted timeouts. All of that is good. But Kaepernick threw just one touchdown pass and the 49ers’ offense converted just six of 16 third downs (38 percent), and scored just one TD in four trips to the red zone. And Kaepernick threw a pass that should have been intercepted by Ron Parker. And Kaepernick completed only 54 percent of his passes. Some of his incomplete passes missed receivers by five, ten yards. One time he hit a lady standing on the sideline in the back of the head.
RUNNING BACKS: A. Frank Gore had two 6-yard runs, two 7-yard runs, an 8-yard run, a 9-yard run, a 12-yard run, two 13-yard runs and a 14-yard run. Superb. Carlos Hyde ran well, averaging 4.3 yards per rush and carrying the ball 10 times for the second game in a row.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B-. Anquan Boldin caught four passes, a team high. Brandon Lloyd caught three passes for 76 yards. Two of his catches were extraordinary – a diving 38-yard catch down the right sideline and a leaping 29-yard catch down the left sideline over 6-foot-3 cornerback Sean Smith. Michael Crabtree didn’t show up. Kaepernick threw to him four times and he caught just one pass. Stevie Johnson also caught just one pass – a 9-yard TD catch. On that play he pushed off and got away with it. More power to him.
TIGHT ENDS: D-. Vance McDonald and Derek Carrier blocked well, but Carrier caught only two passes and McDonald caught zero. As a receiver, McDonald is a zero. Carrier is better. But on his second catch he fumbled, went out of bounds, came back in bounds and recovered the ball. A player who goes out of bounds cannot be the first player to touch the ball. That’s a penalty. That should have been Chiefs’ ball, but the officials missed it.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C+. This unit used to be the best offensive line in football. Now it’s ordinary. They couldn’t protect Kaepernick for the second week in a row. The Chiefs sacked him three times and hit him five times. Alex Boone gave up one sack, Jonathan Martin gave up another.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B-. Gave up just 90 rushing yards to an offense that was averaging more than 145 rushing yards per game. Very impressive. On the other hand, the Chiefs averaged 4.7 yards per rush today. Kansas City came into the game averaging 4.6 yards per rush. They should have run more against the Niners. Jamaal Charles rushed just 15 times even though he averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
LINEBACKERS: C+. Zero sacks. The 49ers’ linebackers haven’t recorded a sack since the third quarter of Week 1 when Ahmad Brooks sacked Tony Romo. That’s the only time a 49ers’ linebacker has recorded a sack this season.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B. Allowed just 175 passing yards, although they didn’t have to cover anyone good. The 49ers’ secondary still gave up two touchdown catches. On the second one, Antoine Bethea got stiff-armed to the ground by De’Anthony Thomas who weighs 174 pounds.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-. Phil Dawson was the 49ers’ MVP. He made all five of his field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder and a 55-yarder. This group gets a minus because they gave up a 28-yard punt return to De’Anthony Thomas.
COACHES: C. Last week, Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers are close to playing their best football. And then the offense scored just one touchdown against the Chiefs. Maybe Harbaugh should take off the rose-colored glasses when he’s watching his offense. Maybe he’s watching some other left tackle besides Joe Staley, or a right tackle other than Jonathan Martin, or a right guard other than Alex Boone. Maybe Harbaugh doesn’t know his offense has scored zero touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season.
My expectations for the 49ers’ offense are much higher than the head coach’s expectations. Harbaugh either is blowing smoke to the media or blowing smoke to his own team, trying to make them think they’re playing better than they really are.
Saying it won’t make it so.