Here are the 49ers’ grades after their 41-39 home loss to the Rams.
QUARTERBACK: A-minus. The minus is for the first pass of the game. That was brutal. Brian Hoyer threw the ball right to the cornerback, who intercepted the pass and returned the ball to the 49ers three-yard line. Hoyer basically handed the Rams a seven-point head start. First, the location of the cornerback should have negated the throw in the first place. Marquise Goodwin ran a quick out route toward the sideline, and the corner never backed up. He knew Hoyer would throw a short pass. Secondly, Hoyer paused before the made the throw. The pass was late. He should have thrown the ball away. Throw it into the stands and hit the hot dog vendor in the head – just don’t throw to the cornerback. That was Hoyer’s worst decision. But he rebounded and was excellent the rest of the game even though he was under constant pressure. His passer rating from that point on was 112.3, and it could have been better – his teammates dropped six passes. This was the Hoyer we saw last season in Chicago and expected to see this season.
RUNNING BACKS: B. Carlos Hyde averaged only 3.4 yards per carry, but that’s because he ran so many times at the goal line. He was superb, and scored two touchdowns. He gets an “A.” I downgrade this group to a “B” because Raheem Mostert fumbled and Kyle Juszczyk committed a critical holding penalty when the 49ers were at the Rams 9-yard line. If Juszczyk hadn’t committed that penalty, there’s a good chance the 49ers would have scored a touchdown on that series, but instead they kicked a field goal. And they ended up losing by two points. That holding penalty could have been the difference in the game.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A-minus. Pierre Garcon was the best player on the offense. He gets an “A-plus.” He caught seven passes for 142 yards, including a 59-yard catch down the left sideline, a 30-yard catch across the middle, and an 18-yard catch on third-and-17. I don’t understand what took Kyle Shanahan so long to get Garcon involved in the offense. He is a pleasure to watch. Marquise Goodwin gets credit too – he made a beautiful 50-yard catch over two defensive backs. He didn’t wait for the ball to get to him – he jumped and caught it at its highest point as he’s coached to do. Good for him. And rookie Trent Taylor caught a touchdown pass. He also caught a 12-yard pass third-and-10 on the final drive, but the officials flagged him for an offensive pass interference penalty. I watched the replay and didn’t see what he did to draw the flag. Maybe the camera angle didn’t show the penalty. Maybe the penalty was a bad call. I don’t know. I downgrade this group because Aldrick Robinson dropped two passes.
TIGHT ENDS: C-minus. Garrett Celek caught a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter and cut the Rams’ lead to eight points. That was a big play. An even bigger play was George Kittle’s drop in the red zone. After Kyle Juszczyk’s holding penalty, Shanahan called a long pass to Kittle. The play was “Y Stick Nod.” Kittle ran five yards up field, took two of steps to his left and then broke back up field. He was open and Hoyer’s pass hit him in the hands, but Kittle dropped the ball. Had he caught the pass, he could have picked up the first down or even scored a touchdown.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D. This unit committed three penalties (one was declined) and allowed four sacks. The final sack came on the 49ers final offensive play. It was fourth-and-20. Right guard Brandon Fusco tried to block Aaron Donald, but failed. Donald instantly beat Fusco and sacked Hoyer to end the game. Fusco is a liability.
DEFENSIVE LINE: F. These guys touched Jared Goff just two times and sacked him no times. The pass rush was non-existent. Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas each recorded only one tackle. Thomas was particularly ineffective. Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth owned Thomas all game. Thomas has short arms and no technique, and once he engages the offensive tackle he has no way to disengage. He locks on. Has no counter move. He wasn’t worth the No. 3 pick.
LINEBACKERS: F. Ray Ray Armstrong committed his weekly 15-yard penalty, and NaVorro Bowman missed three tackles. The third missed tackle led to a 27-yard gain on third-and-10. He is washed up. Sad.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: D. This unit committed four penalties, including a holding penalty by Dontae Johnson. That penalty came on third-and-7 when Elvis Dumervil sacked Jared Goff. Johnson’s penalty extended the drive and allowed the Rams to score a touchdown. I give the defensive backs a “D” and not an “F” because they didn’t have the benefit of a pass rush.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B. This unit helped the Niners get back in the game during the fourth quarter by forcing a fumble during a kickoff return and recovering an onside kick. But Robbie Gould missed an extra point. If he had made that kick, the 49ers probably would have forced overtime.
COACHES: A-minus. Kyle Shanahan did almost everything he needed to do. He laid the foundation of a passing attack, boosted Hoyer’s confidence, allowed Garcon to be a major factor, called three deep passes and changed his game plan on third down – the Niners converted 9-of-18. But for the second-straight home game, Shanahan’s team played sloppy. They committed 16 FIPS – one fumble, one interception, 10 penalties and four sacks. And that doesn’t account for the six dropped passes. They’re still playing like losers. Shanahan has to change that.