LANDOVER, Md. — Here are my Week 9 grades for the 7-1 49ers.
Alex Smith: B. Like almost every other game this season, Smith played well enough to win. He attempted 24 passes – right around his average. He completed 17 of them (71%) for 200 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, and a 109.7 rating. By and large his throws were accurate today. His TD throw to Bruce Miller was perfect. If this team could get better than “B” play from the quarterback position they would be unstoppable.
Offensive line: A. They gave up two sacks but one of them was Smith’s fault – he held onto the ball forever. They also helped Frank Gore rush for 107 and 5.6 yards per carry. This unit is the best example of how good the 49ers new coaches are. They were one of the worst lines in the NFL at the beginning of the season and now they’re playing excellently.
Running backs: A. Halfway through the season Frank Gore should be one of the leading candidates for NFL MVP. If he can get past the line of scrimmage there’s a good chance he’ll pick up ten, fifteen, twenty yards. Imagine how good the Packers would be if they had Gore. Kendall Hunter played well today, too, but fullback Bruce Miller really stood out – he caught a TD pass. Add him to the long list of dangerous weapons the Niners have in their pass game.
Tight ends: B. Vernon Davis caught four passes and Delanie Walker caught two. Davis also fumbled once, but he redeemed himself by catching the Redskins’ onsides kick at the end of the game. The Niners have ‘A’ tight ends that they’ve been underutilizing because they’re mostly blocking for Frank Gore. Davis and Walker seem happy to “do the dirty work,” as they call it. Both players are key run blockers.
Wide receivers: B+. Again, these guys don’t get an ‘A’ because the Niners pass game is almost an afterthought. But these players all made the play when the ball came their way. Crabtree caught five passes. Edwards caught two and had one great run after the catch – blasting DeAngelo Hall with his shoulder. Even Kyle Williams had a great run after the catch. Ted Ginn Jr. is the fastest player on the team, but Williams is the quickest. Expect him to see more and more snaps as the season goes forward.
Defensive line: A. The Redskins zone blocking scheme seemed to give this unit trouble at the start of the game. Roy Helu had 40 yards rushing halfway through the second quarter. Do you know how many yards he finished the game with? 41. So the D-line figured the Redskins out. Ricky Jean Francois led this unit with 4 tackles.
Linebackers: A+. The Niners have the best linebackers in the NFL. Patrick Willis had 13 tackles and two forced fumbles. NaVorro Bowman had eight tackles and two passes defensed. Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson each recorded one hit on John Beck, and Aldon Smith came close to sacking him a few times.
Secondary: B. They allowed 254 pass yard to Beck, which is not so good. Beck didn’t want to challenge Carlos Rogers, so he threw towards Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver semi-successfully. Culliver especially seemed to struggle today. Tramaine Brock should challenge him in practice for the nickel corner job.
Special Teams: A. David Akers made all four of his field goal attempts. He was the first player Harbaugh praised to the media after the game. Andy Lee pinned the Redskins behind their 20 yard line twice, and Ted Ginn Jr. gained 67 yards on returns.
Coaching: B+. Greg Roman’s play call on the Bruce Miller touchdown was brilliant. But the offensive game plan got conservative in the second half, the defense started playing softer, and the Niners let the Redskins back in the game. If Washington had recovered the onsides kick at the end, the Niners would have had a problem. But Washington didn’t recover it, so you can say the Niners coaches did what they had to do to win.