SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my grades for the 49ers. They almost blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, but ended up beating the Falcons 34-24.
KAEPERNICK: B. His passer rating was 108.6 and he ran for 51 yards and a touchdown against a terrible defense. He also completed just 13 passes, and only a few of his completions actually hit his intended receiver in stride. All night, receivers had to adjust to poorly thrown passes from Kaepernick. It will be interesting to count exactly how many receivers Kaepernick actually hit in stride when I re-watch the game. Kaepernick almost never sets his feet properly when the throws. How can he consistently throw accurate passes when he doesn’t consistently set his feet? How can Jim Harbaugh and Geep Chryst allow such poor footwork? Don’t they coach that?
RUNNING BACKS: A-. Frank Gore averaged 4.6 yards per carry against a defense that gives up 4.6 yards per carry. Kendall Hunter did very little until the fourth quarter when he had a 45-yard run. Anthony Dixon and Will Tukuafu both did a good job filling in for Bruce Miller as the 49ers’ lead blocker.
TIGHT ENDS: F+. Vernon Davis dropped three catchable passes, and Vance McDonald dropped two catchable passes, although all five of those passes were not well-thrown. McDonald made the key block on Anquan Boldin’s touchdown.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A-. Anquan Boldin was terrific running after the catch on screen passes. He also caught a 22-yard pass downfield. Michael Crabtree had 5 catches for 102 yards, including a 47-yarder. He also was flagged for an offensive pass interference. Kassim Osgood got one pass and caught it for a 17-yard gain. Quinton Patton got no passes.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A. They created huge holes in the run game. Most of the time, it seemed Frank Gore didn’t get touched until he was a few yards past the line of scrimmage. The offensive line gave up three sacks, but those came when Kaepernick decided to tuck the ball and scramble.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B. They helped limit the Falcons to just 3.1 yards per carry, but they got very little pressure on Matt Ryan. Justin Smith got the only sack of the game. Aldon Smith pushed around the Falcons’ left tackle but could not get any sacks.
LINEBACKERS: A+. Patrick Willis had 18 tackles, and NaVorro Bowman may have saved the 49ers’ season. The Falcons were in field goal position with a minute left down three points, and Bowman intercepted Matt Ryan and returned the interception 89 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
SECONDARY: D. When the 49ers don’t get a strong pass rush, this group looks mediocre at best. They allowed Matt Ryan to complete 77 percent of his passes. Carlos Rogers dropped an interception and gave up a 59-yard catch to Drew Davis. Donte Whitner was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit and for unsportsmanlike contact on the same play. Tarell Brown left the game with an injury. Eric Reid and Tramaine Brock gave up a 39-yard touchdown to Roddy White. But Brock redeemed himself, hitting Harry Douglas and allowing Bowman to intercept Ryan in the fourth quarter. And Brock intercepted a Ryan Hail Mary on the last play of the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D. Phil Dawson was perfect again, but this group almost blew the game. NaVorro Bowman whiffed trying to recover an onside kick and the Falcons recovered at the 49ers’ 30.
COACHING: B. Bowman won this game. If he hadn’t intercepted Ryan and scored a touchdown, the Falcons probably would have won or the game would have gone into overtime. The Falcons were in field goal range with 1:30 left.
The game shouldn’t have been that close. The 49ers are far superior to the Falcons. But when the 49ers scored only a field goal on their first drive of the game, you just the 49ers would let the Falcons hang around. Greg Roman was extra cute in the first half, calling a strange shot play on third-and-1 which failed and killed what could have been a big drive. But Roman and the rest of the offensive coaches made good adjustments at halftime and handled the Falcons’ terrible defense in the second half as they should have handled them all game.