The Broncos eked out a 42-17 win over the 49ers Sunday night. Here are the Niners’ grades.
KAEPERNICK: D. Carried the team in the first half. Posted a 140 passer rating in the second quarter. Would have been a 156 rating if Anquan Boldin hadn’t dropped a touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the 4 yard line. Kaepernick led a 7-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that took 2 minutes and 58 seconds at the end of the first half, cutting the Broncos’ lead to 11, giving the 49ers momentum. And then Kaepernick flunked the third quarter. Posted a passer rating of 12. Threw for 12 yards. Threw an interception right to Broncos’ cornerback Aqib Talib on the Niners’ third play of the second half. One play later, Peyton Manning threw a touchdown pass. 28-10 Broncos. Next drive, Kaepernick threw a line drive past Brandon Lloyd who was open deep on third-and-10. If Kaepernick had thrown the pass with touch, Lloyd probably would have scored. But the 49ers punted. Three plays later, Peyton Manning threw another touchdown pass. Game over.
RUNNING BACKS: D-. Frank Gore gained just nine yards on 20 carries. We let him slide a bit because there were no holes. That said, Carlos Hyde gained 15 yards on three carries and looked more energetic than Gore. Greg Roman waited too long to give Hyde the ball, waited until there was 1:31 left in the third quarter.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C. Brandon Lloyd and Stevie Johnson played well. Johnson caught a four-yard touchdown pass. He has been the 49ers’ best red-zone receiver this season. And Brandon Lloyd caught a 37-yard pass. He has been a legitimate deep threat. Excellent signing. Problem is the starters didn’t perform against the Broncos. Michael Crabtree caught just four passes for just 27 yards. He may have been the worst receiver on the field. Anquan Boldin wasn’t much better. He caught seven passes for 50 yards, dropped a touchdown catch and committed a pass interference penalty that negated a touchdown catch by Crabtree.
TIGHT ENDS: F. Vernon Davis dropped a pass and caught two. Roman didn’t call any deep passes for him. Roman didn’t call any passes of any kind for Vance McDonald. McDonald is just a blocker. And he blocked poorly.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F. Gave up six sacks, six quarterbacks hits and nine tackles for losses. Joe Staley gave up three sacks. Anthony Davis gave up one. Pass protection has been an issue all season. Without Mike Iupati, run blocking is an issue, too.
DEFENSIVE LINE: F. Allowed Ronnie Hillman to average 5.3 yards per carry. Raise your hand if you thought Ronnie Hillman would average 5.3 yards per carry. Also allowed Juwan Thompson to average 5 yards per carry. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Juwan Thompson.
LINEBACKERS: F+. Aaron Lynch sacked Manning once, and Ahmad Brooks made a tackle for a three-yard loss near the goal line. Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite were bad. The Niners need Patrick Willis back.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: F. Allowed Manning to complete 22 of 26 pass attempts. Three of Manning’s incomplete passes were dropped by his intended receiver. Tramaine Brock probably shouldn’t have played. It was his first game back from a turf toe injury and he gave up two touchdown catches, one to Wes Welker and one to Demaryius Thomas. Perrish Cox also gave up a touchdown catch to Demaryius Thomas, a deep touchdown catch. Dontae Johnson ran into an official in the end zone and gave up a touchdown catch to Emmanuel Sanders.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C. Phil Dawson missed a 51-yard field goal. Three plays later, the 49ers fell behind 14-0.
COACHES: F. Why did Jim Harbaugh let Kaepernick play in the fourth quarter when the Niners were losing by 32 points? Kaepernick took two sacks a shot from behind before Harbaugh brought in Blaine Gabbert with 2:49 left. Harbaugh got outcoached. So did Roman, who could not get the running game going without Iupati. And so did Vic Fangio, who could not fool Manning, could not pressure him, could not challenge him. Not in the slightest.