East Rutherford, NJ. – The 49ers barely beat the Giants, a bad team that quit after the second quarter and turned the ball over five times. So here are the Niners’ grades.
KAEPERNICK: C. The best you can say is he didn’t turn the ball over. Which is good, but his first pass almost got picked off. And he fumbled once (he recovered it). And he didn’t complete a single pass in the red zone. And he didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter for the 12th game in a row (counting playoffs). Is that a record?
RUNNING BACKS: B+. Frank Gore fumbled in the red zone, but he gained 95 yards on 19 carries, including 56 yards on 10 counter runs. He gained 56 yards on 10 counter runs last week, too. The counter is just about unstoppable when Gore runs it. Greg Roman can’t call it often enough, although he seems to believe 10 is Gore’s limit. Seems arbitrary. Carlos Hyde carried the ball 9 times for just 25 yards. He ran only four different plays – 5 outside zones, 2 counters, 1 inside zone and 1 weak lead. The coaches don’t seem to trust him to properly execute more than a handful of running plays right now.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C. Make Michael Crabtree happy – that was the Niners’ game plan. Kaepernick threw the first pass of the game to Crabtree and the Giants almost picked it off. Kaepernick threw Crabtree 8 more passes and he caught 3 and dropped 2. Crabtree has dropped 10 passes already this season – about 1 drop for every 4 catches he has made. The Giants’ defense seemed to give up mid-play during Crabtree’s 48-yard touchdown catch at the beginning of the third quarter. Crabtree looked like he was running under water, and yet he still ran away from the Giants’ defensive backs. Anquan Boldin caught 5 passes for 53 yards. Ho hum. Kaepernick threw just one pass to Stevie Johnson and he caught it, of course. He catches everything this season. Does he have to pout like Crabtree to get more targets? Johnson is hot – throw him the ball.
TIGHT ENDS: F. Greg Roman called 6 deep passes for Vernon Davis on second down and Davis caught none of them. What a waste. Roman also called a deep pass for Vance McDonald in the third quarter. Guess what happened.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A. Pushed around the Giants’ defense in the run game and gave up just one sack. But the sack wasn’t the offensive line’s fault. Kaepernick faked a handoff and rolled out right into Giants’ defensive end Robert Ayers, who was waiting for Kaepernick. The Giants scouted that play perfectly. Roman has to disguise it better.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A. Dominated the Giants’ banged up offensive line. Shut down Rashad Jennings and the Giants’ running game. Ray McDonald played his best game in years, recording 5 tackles and a sack.
LINEBACKERS: A. The Giants’ backup right tackle couldn’t block Aaron Lynch, who sacked Manning once. Lynch was the Niners’ best pass rusher. Aldon Smith hit Manning twice but didn’t sack him. Chris Borland picked off Manning twice and recorded 12 tackles, 2 for losses. Michael Wilhoite gave up a 19-yard touchdown catch to Giants’ tight end Larry Donnell on the first drive of the game. But Wilhoite made up for his mistake when he intercepted Manning in the second quarter.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B. Nine of Manning’s 22 completions gained more than 15 yards, but the Niners’ defensive backs didn’t give up any TD catches, and Eric Reid and Chris Culliver each intercepted a pass. Dontae Johnson tipped the game-winning interception to Chris Borland at the goal line late in the fourth quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D. Gave up a 38-yard kick return and a 25-yard punt return. Andy Lee fumbled a low snap from Kyle Nelson in the third quarter.
COACHES: D. Would have been an “F” if not for Vic Fangio, one of the best defensive coordinators in football. The first-team offense went 0-for-4 in the red zone. It still hasn’t scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter this season. Manning threw five picks, but the Niners only scored one touchdown. Hard to accomplish. This game should not have been close. The offense played down to the competition, and that’s on Jim Harbaugh.