SAN FRANCISCO — Here are the grades for the 49ers 45-3 demolition of the Bills – a truly awful team.
Quarterbacks: A. Alex Smith had the best statistical performance of his career. His QB rating was a near-perfect 156.2. He also rushed 3 times for 49 yards. He completed 18-of-24 passes, but only two passes were bad – a screen he threw too early to Kendall Hunter, and an overthrown deep pass to Vernon Davis. Other than those two plays, Smith couldn’t have played better. His receivers were wide open all game long and he hit them. He only had to make one difficult pass, and he made it. It might have been the most difficult pass he’s ever made. It was a deep back-shoulder pass to Kyle Williams, who was covered over the top. If Smith had tried to air it out and make Williams run under it in the end zone, it probably would have been incomplete. But Smith threw a line drive behind the cornerback, Williams adjusted, turned around and caught the pass, broke a tackle and scored.
I say this was Smith’s best statistical performance, not his best all-around performance, because he was playing at home against a terrible team that completely mailed in the second half. But Smith was great.
After the game, Smith said he sprained a finger on his throwing hand, but he didn’t break it.
Colin Kaepernick played a few snaps at quarterback and mostly ran – he gained 39 yards and a TD on four carries. He also fumbled once running a fly sweep.
Offensive line: A-. They gave up zero sacks against a very talented pass rush. The offensive line also created huge holes for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. The line was penalized more than usual, though. Mike Iupati was flagged for a hold and a false start, and Joe Staley was flagged for a false start, too.
Running backs: A. Both Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter averaged more than 7 yards per carry. The team as a whole rushed for 311 yards. Anthony Dixon scored a touchdown at the end of the game when the 49ers were killing the clock. Dixon only seems to play offense when the 49ers’ have the game won.
Wide receivers: A. The Bills could not stop Michael Crabtree. He gained 113 yards and a touchdown on just 6 catches. He would have had an even better day, but he dropped a pass, and a 41-yard catch was nullified due to a Frank Gore chop block. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams each caught a touchdown. Randy Moss, who’s become the No.4 receiver on the depth chart, caught just one pass for 11 yards.
Tight ends: A. Vernon Davis played even better than Crabtree did. Davis caught five passes for 106 yards (21.2 yards per catch). Garrett Celek even caught a pass. Delanie Walker was not targeted on any passes, which was probably for the best considering the rate at which he’s been dropping them this season.
Defensive line: A. This group didn’t get a ton of pressure on Fitzpatrick, but they shut down the Bills best offensive players – running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Those two rarely got past the 49ers’ defensive line. Justin Smith seemed to shut down the running game singlehandedly as he’s done most of the season.
Linebackers: A. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman didn’t have to make a lot of tackles today because the Bills’ running backs couldn’t get past the 49ers’ defensive line. Willis did force a key fumble at the end of the first half which seemed to kill the Bills’ confidence. Bowman almost intercepted a pass in the second half. Aldon Smith hit Fitzpatrick twice, but Ahmad Brooks got the most pressure – 1 sack, 1 QB hit and two tackles for losses.
Secondary: B. Chris Culliver gave up just one completion. He intercepted a pass in the second quarter and Fitzpatrick never tested Culliver again. Culliver is becoming one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The other two cornerbacks – Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown – didn’t play as well. Each guy gave up two completions on the Bills 80-yard field goal drive in the second quarter. Those two will have to play much better next week against Eli Manning and the Giants.
Special teams. B. They gave up a 59-yard kick return which counted, and an 80-yard punt return which did not count. They probably should have re-signed Blake Costanzo in the offseason. The 49ers’ kick coverage has been subpar without him.
Coaching: B. For the second-straight week, the 49ers ruined the opposing coaches. You could make the argument that the entire Jets’ coaching staff should have been fired last week, and the entire Bills coaching staff should be fired right now.
Dave Wannstedt, the Bills’ defensive coordinator, the person who cut Jim Harbaugh from the Chicago Bears in 1993, watched the Bills’ defense give up 45 points and allow 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing to the 49ers’ offense – not an elite group. I’m not saying Harbaugh wanted revenge, but if he did, he got it.
Vic Fangio called another great game – his defense has given up 3 points total the last two games.
Greg Roman called lots of gimmicky plays for the second week in a row. He expanded Kaepernick’s role in the offense, lining him up at wide receiver and having him run fly sweeps. It will be interesting to see if Roman continues to call trick plays when the 49ers play tight games against good teams. If he doesn’t, you have to wonder what the 49ers gained from all the trickery these past two weeks.
Roman continues to call the most conservative plays near the goal line. Often he takes the wide receivers off the field and practically tells the defense it’s going to be a run up the middle. He needs to use his creativity to expand the 49ers’ offensive potential near the goal line.