49ers Week 17 grades: Defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers stomped the Cardinals 27-13. Here are the grades for the 49ers defense and special teams.

Defensive line: B. Ricky Jean Francois had a team-high six tackles (one for a loss), a sack and a QB hit. He played well. Ray McDonald didn’t get any sacks or tackles for loss, but he forced a fumble in the second half which Donte Whitner recovered.

Linebackers: B. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman finished with just eight tackles between the two of them. They also allowed William Powell to gain 4.2 yards per rush in the first half. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks got zero pressure in the first half, but in the second half Smith had a QB hit and a tackle for a loss, and Brooks had a sack, two QB hits and two tackles for losses.

Secondary: B. They shut down Larry Fitzgerald – holding him to 2 catches for 13 yards, but they had trouble with rookie first-round pick Michael Floyd. He finished with eight catches for 172 yards and a touchdown. He beat Chris Culliver on two deep catches, including a 53-yard leaping TD in garbage time. Tarell Brown had a terrific game, knocking away two passes and intercepting another. He is the 49ers’ best cornerback going into the playoffs.

Special teams: D. David Akers missed two field goals. He has missed 13 field goals this season – he’s 29-for-42. As far as the 49ers are concerned, he’s not a field goal kicker any more. He kicks the kickoffs and the extra points. When the 49ers face fourth down in the opponent’s territory in the playoffs, they will go for it because they have to – they can’t depend on Akers.

Ted Ginn Jr. let a ball bounce from the 20 yard line to the 1 yard line at the beginning of the game. He got his stuff together as the game went on, and returned one punt 28 yards. LaMichael James returned one kick for 33 yards. It remains to be seen if he’s a good NFL running back, but he certainly seems like a good NFL kick returner.

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