These are the grades for the 49ers’ 31-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Niners’ 10th loss in a row – a new franchise record.
QUARTERBACK: B-minus. Colin Kaepernick was the 49ers’ leading rusher. He gained 113 yards on 10 carries – 11.3 yards per carry. He would get an A-plus if he were a running back. But, he’s a quarterback. And although he threw three touchdown passes, he also threw an interception and averaged just 6.4 yards per pass – almost a full yard worse than the league average of 7.2 yards per attempt. And his go-to play all game (all season?) was the quarterback scramble. More on this below.
RUNNING BACKS: A. Carlos Hyde caught a touchdown pass and averaged 5 yards per carry. He ran hard all game. DuJuan Harris also ran hard and gained 15 yards on two carriers – 7.5 yards per attempt. And Shaun Draughn caught six passes for 49 yards.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C-plus. Jeremy Kerley, Rod Streater and Chris Harper all made key catches during the fourth quarter to keep the 49ers in the game. Torrey Smith also made a one-handed touchdown grab, but he dropped a couple passes and gained just 24 yards.
TIGHT ENDS: C. Vance McDonald had another solid game – four catches for 60 yards – but Garrett Celek canceled out McDonald’s performance by fumbling in the red zone.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-minus. This group created holes most of the game, and not just for the running backs. Also for Kaepernick, who consistently scrambled through a gaping “5-hole” – the space between left tackle Joe Staley and left guard Zane Beadles. This group also was penalized four times for 45 yards, and Zane Beadles committed a fifth penalty – a 10-yard holding infraction – which the Dolphins declined.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A. Miami running back Jay Ajayi came into the game averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and the Niners held him to just 2.5 a pop. San Francisco’s run defense has been stout since they tightened the splits on their defensive line, as I told them to.
LINEBACKERS: F. Missed a bunch of tackles and hit Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill just twice.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: F. Jimmie Ward, who should be the free safety, gave up two touchdown catches playing cornerback. Antoine Bethea, who shouldn’t be playing at all, gave up one touchdown catch. Collectively, this group gave up 9.5 yards per pass and a quarterback rating of 130.6.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus. Allowed a 78-yard kickoff return to Kenyan Drake.
COACHES: C. Give Chip Kelly and Jim O’Neil credit for outcoaching their counterparts, Adam Gase and Vance Joseph. Those two were bad. Kelly and O’Neil were not. They put their inferior team in position to beat the Dolphins at the end of the game. But, O’Neil still has no clue how to stop the pass, and Kelly’s best offensive play remains the quarterback scramble, which isn’t really a play. You can’t win a game in the NFL just scrambling, as Kelly learned when Kaepernick ran toward the end zone and got gang-tackled at the 2-yard line as time expired.
The Niners came close, but close doesn’t count. And now they’re 1-10.
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.