The grades for the 49ers’ Week 3 stunning loss against the Vikings, 24-13.
Alex Smith: D. Smith was efficient, completing 69 percent of his passes, but he never threw it deep. He only averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. Not good enough. He was behind the entire game and he never showed any urgency. He seemed content to mostly throw dink and dunk passes until midway through the fourth quarter. When he did try to make a play at the end of the game, he sailed one way over Michael Crabtree’s head, and Vikings’ rookie CB Josh Robinson intercepted it. After that, Smith held onto the ball in the pocket too long, stepped up but didn’t feel Jared Allen closing in on him from behind. Smith took the sack and fumbled and the game was over.
Offensive line: D. Joe Staley couldn’t handle Jared Allen. Vernon Davis had to help Staley block Allen for stretches of the game. Toward the end, the 49ers needed Davis to catch passes, and Allen beat Staley to seal the victory for the Vikings. Alex Boone let a couple defenders run by him through the middle of the Niners’ line.
Running backs: D. Frank Gore averaged more than 5 yards per carry, but he fumbled in the fourth quarter, a blunder from which the Niners couldn’t bounce back. Kendall Hunter had a miserable game, rushing four times for 0 yards.
Wide receivers: D. Randy Moss caught three passes for 27 yards, but he was not a factor. The Niners have not been able to establish him as any kind of threat – they just throw to him when the defense gives him too much of a cushion. Moss doesn’t seem to have any spring left in his legs to jump up and grab catches in the red zone. Michael Crabtree converted couple third downs, but he did not gain many yards after the catch. Mario Manningham caught five passes – he was the Niners’ big-play receiver. He needs to get more involved. He’s one of the best players on the offense.
Tight ends: C. Vernon Davis caught the 49ers only touchdown, and he continues to be the team’s only red zone threat. However, he dropped a key pass at the end of the game. Delanie Walker caught one pass for one yard. He’s become a non-factor in the 49ers’ passing game.
Defensive line: C-. They gave up 146 rush yards, which isn’t good, but they held Adrian Peterson to 3.4 yards per carry, which isn’t bad. The problem was the 49ers’ defensive line did not sack Christian Ponder once. The pass rush makes the 49ers’ defense elite, and they just didn’t have it today.
Linebackers: C. NaVorro Bowman got 18 tackles and Patrick Willis got 10, but they really struggled to pick up the swing passes out of the Vikings’ backfield. Additionally, Neither Bowman or Willis did a good job covering the Vikings’ big tight end, Kyle Rudolph.
Secondary: D-. No one could keep up with Percy Harvin – he beat whomever he faced. He beat Carlos Rogers in the first half, and he beat Tarell Brown in the fourth quarter. Donte Whitner was a liability on the field – he couldn’t cover Rudolph the tight end, and he couldn’t tackle Adrian Peterson. Dashon Goldson got flagged for two 15-yard penalties.
Special teams: C. Kyle Williams had a monster game returning kicks, averaging 72 yards a return. But David Akers had a field goal attempt blocked. And the coverage team committed two penalties – a facemask and illegal block in the back.
Coaching: F. The Niners have never been so thoroughly out-coached in the Jim Harbaugh Era. Greg Roman never established the run in the first half, even though Frank Gore was running well. Roman never called one shot play, one designed deep pass. At the end of the game, the 49ers were down 11 points with 10 minutes left and Roman called run after run, killing the clock for his own team. Vic Fangio seemed to call a lot of soft zone coverage, and the Vikings kept moving the ball in small chunks. Fangio could not figure out how to pressure Ponder. He called an all-out blitz near the goal line that didn’t work – Ponder flicked a pass over the blitzers to Kyle Rudolph in the end zone for a touchdown. Finally, Harbaugh chose to kick a field goal on fourth and goal from the 11 yard line early in the second quarter down 7-0. The Vikings started the game scoring a touchdown on fourth and goal from the 1. Harbaugh set the tone for the entire game when he chose to kick the field goal: The Vikings, not the 49ers, would be the team imposing its will.