The 49ers lost the Super Bowl 34-31 on Sunday. Here are the grades for the defense and special teams.
Defensive line: C. Ray McDonald got pressure and recorded a sack, but the other defensive linemen were invisible. It was hard to tell Justin Smith was even on the field most of the time. He had almost no impact on the game, finishing with just three tackles.
Linebackers: C. Credit the 49ers’ inside linebackers, not the defensive line, for stopping the Ravens’ running game. Patrick Willis played an exceptional game of run defense, and he made the key tackle on the Ravens’ fake field goal. He finished the game with 10 tackles. Bowman had eight. He blitzed a couple of times and hit Flacco twice.
The outside linebackers, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, did not play well. Brooks got a sack, but he was also flagged for being offside twice. The first time it was third and nine, he jumped early and the Ravens scored on the very next play. The second time, both he and Aldon Smith jumped at the same time and the Ravens’ scored a field goal two plays later.
Secondary: D. Chris Culliver and Donte Whitner were atrocious. Culliver was beaten 4 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. He was also flagged for pass interference on a key third and nine. He got embarrassed on Jacoby Jones’ 56-yard touchdown catch. Culliver got burned on a double move, then he didn’t tag Jones when he was laying on the ground, and then Culliver failed to tackle Jones when he got up and started running to the end zone.
Whitner was beaten five times, twice for TDs in the first half. He is a liability in coverage, especially in the red zone, and the 49ers have to consider replacing him. The 49ers have to consider replacing Culliver, too. He played horribly in the playoffs, allowing 14 catches for 252 yards.
Tarell Brown played very well. He allowed only 29 receiving yards. Dashon Goldson played well, too. He had seven tackles and he didn’t give up any catches.
Carlos Rogers gave up only three catches, but he did give up a 15-yard catch to Boldin on third and one in the fourth quarter.
Special teams: D. They made the crucial mistake, allowing Jacoby Jones to run straight down the field for a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the second half. For that, this unit gets a failing grade.
But they made other bad plays, too. With 11 seconds left, they let the Ravens’ punter cha cha around the end zone for seven seconds. They needed to get him out of bounds ASAP, but they didn’t know what to do. They let the Ravens kill the clock.
David Akers was lucky. He missed a field goal, but a Raven illegally plowed into him after the play, so he got another chance and made it from five yards closer.