SAN FRANCISCO – Here are the 49ers’ grades for their 23-13 win over the Rams.
KAEPERNICK: A-. This was the most accurate Kaepernick has thrown the ball since Week 1 against the Packers. Kaepernick completed 68 percent of his passes for 9.8 yards per attempt against the Rams. My only knock on him is he did not play well on third down – the 49ers converted just 4 of 12 third downs. That won’t cut it against better teams.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A-. The Rams gave Anquan Boldin the Packers treatment – mostly leaving him uncovered. And Boldin killed them – 9 catches for 98 yards, 6 of those catches were first downs. The Rams overreacted to Michael Crabtree. The Rams should have consistently double-covered Boldin but they didn’t. Crabtree had a 60-yard catch – the cornerback jumped on the double-move and Crabtree was wide open – but he didn’t play well. He was slow – he got caught from behind on the 60-yard catch and he couldn’t catch up to a deep pass from Kaepernick. Crabtree also committed two penalties – a block in the back and an offensive pass interference. Mario Manningham got zero passes.
TIGHT ENDS: A-. Vernon Davis had a great game, both blocking and catching. He hurdled two defenders, and the second hurdle was the 49ers’ only receiving touchdown. This may have been Davis’ career-best game when it comes to running after the catch. Vance McDonald sprained his ankle and did not receive any passes.
RUNNING BACKS: D. Frank Gore scored a three-yard touchdown, but he also fumbled, and for the third game in a row he rushed for fewer than 49 yards. And for the second game in a row, he averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry. Gore now is averaging a career-worst 4.0 yards per carry and seems to be getting worse every week. You have to wonder how much his injured ankle is affecting him. But Kendall Hunter is even worse – he gained 7 yards on 3 carries and is averaging a disappointing 3.9 yards per carry this season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C. Mike Iupati didn’t play and Joe Staley left the game early with a knee injury. Considering those losses, this group played admirably, but they didn’t play well. They gave up 4 sacks, got pushed around in the run game for the most part and committed more than a few penalties.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B. They didn’t get much pressure, but they shut down Zac Stacy who had been one of the NFL’s hottest running backs before the past few games. On the other hand, it’s not that hard to stop a running back when the opponent’s passing game is minor league.
LINEBACKERS: A-. NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis were excellent, as usual. Bowman had 11 tackles, and both he and Willis sacked Kellen Clemens once. Ahmad Brooks was in-and-out of the lineup because he suffered a stinger last week against the Redskins.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: C+. They didn’t give up a lot of passing yards, but they were playing one of the worst quarterbacks you’ll ever see. Eric Reid dropped an interception and a few plays later the Rams scored a field goal. Donte Whitner had nine tackles, and Carlos Rogers intercepted a tipped pass in the fourth quarter. Tramaine Brock gave up a touchdown pass to the big Brian Quick at the end of the game on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-. They completely shut down Tavon Austin, who recently had been playing like the second coming of Gayle Sayers. The Niners also pinned the Rams behind their 20 yard line four times. But LaMichael James fumbled a punt, and C.J. Spillman was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and that penalty led to a field goal for the Rams.
COACHING: B. The 49ers dominated the Rams, but couldn’t put them away until the fourth quarter when the Rams ran the most predictable, pathetic fake punt. The series before that, Rams’ wide receiver Chris Givens dropped a deep pass on third down that would have put the Rams near the 49ers’ red zone down by just 10 points. If Givens had made that easy catch, this game may have come down to the very end. This game never should have been that close. It was clear from the very beginning the Rams are not in the 49ers’ class. The 49ers’ conservative play-calling when they were in the Rams’ territory kept this game close. The 49ers’ offensive brain trust cannot be that conservative against better teams.
One more thing: I didn’t keep an official count, but it seemed like the 49ers rolled out Kaepernick more often than they had been rolling him out the past few games. Rolling him out was effective – Kaepernick threw his one and only touchdown pass on a rollout.