SAN FRANCISCO – Here are the grades for the 49ers’ 32-20 win over the Cardinals.
KAEPERNICK: C-. He was 8-for-11 passing to Vernon Davis and 8-for-18 passing to everyone else. The Cardinals absolutely could not cover Davis and Kaepernick took advantage. Kaepernick also threw an interception in the red zone, fumbled the ball in the pocket and fumbled a snap which he recovered. He was 1-for-8 on third down until late in the third quarter.
RUNNING BACKS: B-. Frank Gore had three good back-to-back carries on the 49ers’ 18-play touchdown drive. He gained six yards and then five and then nine. Gore finished the game with 101 yards on 25 carries, but 57 of those yards came on three runs – a 10-yarder, a 15-yarder and a 32-yarder. Take away those carries and Gore rushed 22 times for 44 yards. The past few weeks Gore has maintained a respectable yards-per-carry average by breaking a few big runs per game. Kendall Hunter only rushed three times but he had one nice 6-yard TD run.
WIDE RECEIVERS: D. Anquan Boldin caught just three passes, but one was a key 6-yard gain on third-and-2. Kyle Williams caught just one pass – a 14-yard gain on third-and-7. Jon Baldwin caught one pass for nine yards. Marlon Moore gained nine yards on an end around.
TIGHT ENDS: A-. Vernon Davis had one of the best games of his career – 8 catches, 180 yards and two touchdowns. He was the entire 49ers offense most of the game and the Cardinals’ defense never adjusted to him. Vance McDonald caught just one pass for 7 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B. They dominated the Cardinals’ defensive front on the key 18-play drive. That domination allowed Greg Roman to call 8-straight runs.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D. They gave up 5.2 yards per carry against a bad run offense. They gave up 8 yards per carry and a touchdown to the rookie scat-back, Andre Ellington. Granted, Glenn Dorsey pulled his hamstring in the first quarter. Still, the 49ers’ run defense was bad. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald practically were invisible.
LINEBACKERS: C+. Patrick Willis made the play of the game, stripping Larry Fitzgerald in the third quarter when the Cardinals were in field goal range and trailing by just 2 points. Corey Lemonier also played well, forcing a fumble and sacking Carson Palmer in the end zone for a safety. Still, this group did not play particularly well against the run.
SECONDARY: B. Tarell Brown gave up four or five catches. Tramaine Brock gave up a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Fitzgerald. Those two didn’t play well. But Carlos Rogers played well – he intercepted a pass and made 8 tackles, although he gave up a 53-yard pass to a receiver you’ve never heard of, Brittan Golden. And Donte Whitner played well – he made 7 tackles. And Eric Reid played well – he had an interception and a fumble recovery.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-. They forced the Cardinals to start drives behind their 15 yard line five times. Phil Dawson was 3-for-3 on field goals. Andy Lee landed three punts inside the Cardinals’ 20 yard line. The only negative was Kyle Williams fumbled a kickoff in the end zone at the beginning of the second half. The ball bounced away from him and he jumped on it at the 49ers’ 6 yard line and the 49ers ended up going-three-and-out on that drive.
COACHING: C-. The 49ers did not coach well until late in the third quarter. The Cardinals’ halftime adjustments were better than the 49ers’ halftime adjustments. The Cardinals had two opportunities either to tie the game or take the lead in the third quarter. Then, Greg Roman called one of the best drives of his NFL career. He had the guts to call 8-straight runs against a good but tired run defense. In the past, Roman tended to get cute in those situations but he showed no cuteness today. Just eight-straight runs for the win.
On the other hand, the 49ers’ passing offense still has big problems, especially at wide receiver. The 49ers’ wide outs caught just five passes for 53 yards. Wide outs not named Boldin caught just two passes for 25 yards. If Vernon Davis gets hurt again, the 49ers passing offense could become one of the worst in the NFL. Even with Davis, the 49ers may not enough talent to outscore playoff teams. The 49ers’ coaches must make more of an effort to develop Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin and Vance McDonald. One catch a piece is not enough.