SAN FRANCISCO – The Week 2 grades for the 2-0 49ers, who dominated a very good opponent for the second week in a row, yet won by only 8 points for the second week in a row, too.
ALEX SMITH: A. Smith may have played even better Sunday night than he played against the Packers last week. He completed 20 of 31 passes. At least six of his incompletions were good throws receivers just dropped. Over the first two weeks of the season, Smith has only thrown about 5 bad passes, and he hasn’t turned the ball over once. He threw two beautiful touchdowns to Vernon Davis. On the first one, Smith audibled out of a run play at the line of scrimmage so he could throw to Davis. That was a great call by Smith. The offense converted 4 of 11 third downs – not great, but the ones they did convert were essential and difficult. Smith’s best third-down throw was to Michael Crabtree, who was running an out on third and seven. Smith prefers to throw over the middle where the ball’s flight path is shorter, but on this play he threw it about 15 yards to the sideline. If Smith can start making this throw consistently, the Niners’ offense will have no holes.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B+. Like last week, the run blocking was fantastic and the pass protection was pretty good. They gave up some pressure in the first half, but Alex Smith bailed them out by throwing quick passes. Smith couldn’t bail them out all night, and he ended up taking 3 sacks.
RUNNING BACKS: A-. Frank Gore had another fantastic game, rushing 17 times for 89 yards and a TD. He also had the key block on the 49ers’ first third-down conversion of their final drive. The coaching staff doesn’t overuse Gore as the previous staff did. Gore gets about 15 carries a game, and when he does carry the ball, he still looks like one of the best running backs in the NFL. Kendall Hunter continues to be a terrific change-of-pace back, gaining 23 yards on five carries tonight. This group would get a flat A, but both backs dropped a pass. Bruce Miller did, too.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B+. Randy Moss played about half the snaps, and he caught just one pass. Over the first two weeks, the Niners have mostly used him as a decoy. Mario Manningham caught three passes and dropped one. He also ran a reverse for 29-yards. Michael Crabtree had a terrific game. He dropped one pass, but he caught six, including three pivotal third-down conversions on the 49ers’ final drive.
TIGHT ENDS: A-. Delanie Walker dropped another pass – it seems he drops at least one per game. But he did make some key blocks for Frank Gore. Vernon Davis was not double covered, and so he caught two touchdowns. Even though he’s still the best player on the 49ers’ offense, defenses seem less willing to double-cover him this season, out of respect for the other offensive players, like Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+. Aldon Smith recorded 2 sacks, and no other Niner recorded 1. The defensive line did make Stafford back pedal in the pocket and throw off balance for most of the game. Sometimes they created pressure, and other times Stafford just imagined it. The D line also held the Lions to a measly 3.2 yards per rush.
LINEBACKERS: B. None of these four players defended the pass particularly well. Aldon Smith got juked in the flat, Ahmad Brooks gave up a deep pass down the middle, NaVorro Bowman lost running backs coming out of the backfield a couple times and Patrick Willis gave up a touchdown to Brandon Pettigrew at the end of the game. But the linebackers did help shut down the Lions’ running game.
SECONDARY: A-. They held the best receiver in the NFL – Calvin Johnson – to under 100 yards receiving and no touchdowns. They also completely took the Lions’ No.2 and No.3 receivers – Nate Burleson and Titus Young – out of the game. Before the season it seemed like this unit was the weakest on the defense. Sunday night, they were the strongest.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C. Kendall Hunter did not return kicks well. He fumbled one, and returned another to his own 15 yard line. The kickoff coverage unit also allowed Lions’ returner Stefan Logan to return one 40 yards. David Akers saves this group’s grade. He made both his field goal attempts despite the strong winds.
COACHES: A-. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called a near-perfect game, as the Niners’ defense completely dismantled the Lions’ offense. Offensive Greg Roman called another conservative game, which is part of the reason the Niners only won by 8 points despite owning the Lions all night. On the final drive, Roman called a run on first down and there were 0 wide receivers on the field. Gore lost yards 4 yards on that play. But Roman instantly redeemed himself, calling 3 perfect third-down passes to extend the drive and run down the clock.