San Francisco 49ers: Grading the Week 6 Loss
It's a sad day when I feel better about a blowout loss to the Minnesota Vikings than I do about a blowout loss to the New York Giants. Everyone was geared up for revenge this past Sunday, and the whole team just fell flat in a 26-3 drubbing at the hands of Eli Manning and Co.
The problems started at the top—just like the loss at Minnesota, Jim Harbaugh's game plan was awful, and the execution was even worse. Alex Smith looked bad for most of the game, Frank Gore wasn't a factor and Vernon Davis might as well have not been on the field.
The offensive line got shredded, the defensive line must have thought Manning had cooties and the secondary was getting turned around all afternoon. Add bad special teams play to this mix and you have, by far, the worst performance of the season for our 49ers.
Let's swallow our pride and check out how the team graded out in the Week 6 loss:
Passing Game: D+
Alex Smith had, by far, his worst performance of the season on Sunday. It brought us all back to the awful days of...well, the first six years of his career. Smith completed 63 percent of his passes for 200 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
The first and third interceptions were just bad decisions, though I still think Delanie Walker should have at least made a play on the first pass. And the second one was not a good throw but still took a crazy athletic mid-air twist by Antrel Rolle to make the pick.
The offensive line wasn't much help, allowing six sacks (four on Smith, two on Colin Kaepernick), and neither were the go-to receivers. Even though Randy Moss had two catches, including a nice 55-yard strike, the 49ers didn't have guys opening up underneath or across the middle and were forced to throw into coverage or go deep.
As we all know, going deep is not Smith's specialty. Whether it was the game planning or the route running, something was wrong on Sunday, because the Giants coverage is never THAT good.
Running Game: D
The fact that Gore only managed 36 yards on the ground against the Giants isn't even really his fault. He was averaging 4.5 yards a carry, and Kendall Hunter was averaging over six yards per carry. How can Harbaugh possibly justify only letting Gore carry eight times the whole game?
Sure, the offensive line was having a rough go of it anyway, but that never stopped Gore from finding holes to burst through before. Every time he touched the ball, it seemed like the Niners gained momentum. But then, we'd go straight back to the air.
This is all coming back to the offensive game-planning, but when you have one of the best rushers in the NFL, he needs to be utilized. Otherwise, you come out looking like the Philadelphia Eagles (LeSean McCoy hardly carries the ball these days—trust me, I'm one unhappy fantasy owner!).
I know Harbaugh wants to be clever and cute with his play-calling, but if it comes at the expense of progress in a huge game, it can be chucked. Gore should have taken the ball at LEAST 15 times against the Giants on Sunday.
Front 7: C
It hurts my heart every time I have to give the front seven a grade lower than an A. They just weren't up to the task this week. And I will give credit where credit is due: Ahmad Bradshaw looked beastly out there, making cuts and busting through tackles like nobody's business.
I just didn't think that was possible against this defensive front. But, the offensive line did a great job totally disarming Justin and Aldon Smith, and Bradshaw did the rest once he got through the line.
Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith combined for 21 tackles, but it doesn't matter if they are tackling people who have already gained seven yards. Smith did not make an impact in this game, and that's a guy who needs to step up to help set the tone for the defense every single week.
Another performance like this on Thursday night against Marshawn Lynch would start to worry me a little bit, but for now, I'm chalking this one up to another fluky performance.
Any other week and I might have praised this unit. And honestly, they might have been the best group overall this weekend. But that's not saying much when you get spanked by 23 at home. Let's play Good, Bad and Ugly for this unit:
Carlos Rogers had a nice game, knocking down three passes and mostly shutting down Victor Cruz. He backed up his smack talk with a little physical play, but Cruz got the last salsa dance, scoring a touchdown in the first half.
Two awful, terrible, no-good dropped interceptions, including one by Rogers that would have turned into a 95-yard foot race to the end zone. It was in his hands, and he took his eye off of it. The Giants put up points on that drive, essentially burying the 49ers late.
Chris Culliver. I don't know if he's ugly in general; I'm sure he's a normal-looking human being. But where the box score says four tackles, I see "picked on and dominated all game long." His buddy Tarrell Brown wasn't doing much of anything either, unless tackling a guy that just outplayed you for a catch counts for something.
Special Teams: D
I've never graded this unit so low before. I don't care that we blocked a field goal—that only canceled out one of the field goals that David Akers missed. He has been uncharacteristically pulling a lot of kicks wide right, and it resulted in a big blow to momentum early against the Giants.
Even Andy Lee struggled on Sunday. His average was just fine, but on a crucial punt, he shanked one that ended up giving the Giants solid starting field position. And don't even get me started on the coverage units...
...anytime a coverage team gives up a 66-yard return to open the second half, they deserve a whipping at practice, and I'm hoping that's just what the coaches gave them. This unit has been incredibly strong for the 49ers. It's no time to lose focus.
Not only was the game plan terrible on both sides of the ball, but the coaches need to do a better job of getting these guys pumped up for a game like that. Whatever they did against Green Bay and Detroit didn't work for the Giants.
I truly believe that Jim Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in football, both with X's and O's and just general ability to get a team inspired. But Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff completely outfoxed Harbaugh in this game, to the tune of an embarrassing beatdown.
The 49ers came in with one idea set in their heads about how to beat a team they played tough twice last season. When it didn't work, they continued to push that agenda, instead of trying to switch it up and get the playmakers more involved. That won't work against the reigning champs.
There's no getting around it; there was nothing good about this loss. The score could have been 26-25 Giants, and if they played that poorly, I'd still grade this team the same way. They didn't capitalize on any opportunities, and they gave the Giants way too many.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Alex Smith wasn't on point, Gore hardly got the ball, Vernon Davis wasn't a factor and the defense was shredded.
It's a devastating loss as is, but the 100-yard rushing mark and rushing touchdown at home were points of pride for the 49ers and their fanbase. Here's to hoping that's a wake-up call for Thursday's suddenly huge divisional showdown with Seattle.