49ers 9, Panthers 10: Grades

SAN FRANCISCO — Here are my grades for the 49ers’ 10-9 loss to the Panthers.

KAEPERNICK: F+. He completed just 11 passes and converted just 2 of 13 third downs. He had 46 net passing yards. That’s pathetic. He took 6 sacks and he threw an interception to seal the defeat. His passer rating in the fourth quarter was 0.0. But I give him an F+ and not an F because he threw a perfect deep pass to Vance McDonald in the fourth quarter but McDonald dropped it. If McDonald had not dropped it, the 49ers may have won the game.

RUNNING BACKS: B. Frank Gore had an excellent game against a tough run defense – four runs of more than 10 yards. He also caught two passes. He was the 49ers’ best offensive player. But Kendall Hunter was horrible. He fumbled on a run up the middle in the third quarter. In Hunter’s defense, he shouldn’t have run that play. He hasn’t run well up the middle all season. Bruce Miller had a nice 10-yard catch on the second play of the game. So, of course, Greg Roman didn’t call another pass for him until the fourth quarter.

WIDE RECEIVERS: F. Anquan Boldin was a non-factor. He caught three passes for 30 yards. Mario Manningham caught three passes for 23 yards and he also dropped at least two passes. Kyle Williams caught one pass for five yards.

TIGHT ENDS: Z. Vernon Davis fumbled near the Panthers’ end zone, but luckily for the Niners the refs ruled the play was a drop, not a fumble. Davis left the game with a concussion after one catch for two yards. Vance McDonald dropped both passes that were thrown to him. And Garrett Celek left the game in the first quarter because he pulled his hamstring.

OFFENSIVE LINE: C. They created holes for Gore against a tough 8-man box and that was impressive. But they were horrible in pass protection – they gave up 6 sacks. And Anthony Davis was flagged for a false start.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B. They held the Panthers to just 3.7 yards per carry. Justin Smith had five tackles including a tackle for a loss. Dobbs knocked down a pass. Ray McDonald left the game early with an ankle injury. He’s been dealing with an ankle issue since Week 2. Aldon Smith hardly played and did nothing when he was on the field, although he had a terrific bull rush on his first snap of the game.

LINEBACKERS: A. Ahmad Brooks was outstanding – three sacks, 5 tackles and he knocked down a pass. Dan Skuta also was terrific – four tackles, 1 tackle for a loss and he knocked down two passes. And Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman combined for 15 tackles and a sack.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: D. Tramaine Brock intercepted a pass that was right to him and Tarell Brown knocked away a deep pass to Brandon LaFell. Other than those plays, the secondary played poorly. They gave up crucial third down catches in the second half and the Panthers finished the game going 7 for 17 on third down.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C. Eric Reid recovered a fumbled punt and that was a big play. But they gave up 21.7 yards per punt return to Ted Ginn Jr., and Anthony Dixon decided to run a kickoff out from the back of the end zone toward the end of the game and got tackled at the 49ers’ 12 yard line and the 49ers ended up going three-and-out.

COACHING: F. The 49ers had two weeks to prepare for the Panthers, one week more than the Panthers had to prepare for the Niners, and the Niners still got out-coached. The Niners had virtually zero passing game. The Niners’ passing game hasn’t been this bad since Alex Smith’s first NFL start in 2005. The game plan featured plays that have failed all season – Kendall Hunter up the middle – and the game plan had zero imagination. The 49ers took a 3-0 on the first drive and then it seemed they tried to run out the clock for the rest of the game. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman surely did not bring out the best in their players. And as poorly as Kaepernick played, this loss still falls on the coaches’ shoulders. There is no excuse for this offense to perform this poorly after a Bye.

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