Falcons vs. 49ers: Full Roster Report Card Grades for San Francisco

Dylan DeSimoneCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2013

Falcons vs. 49ers: Full Roster Report Card Grades for San Francisco

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Unselfish team football and persistence helped the San Francisco 49ers bump their record up to 11-4 on the season, allowing them to clinch a playoff berth in 2013. 

    Even though this game came down to the wire, there were strong performances nearly across the board, with some not-so-pretty ones sprinkled in here and there. Fans and analysts alike who witnessed this instant classic probably have a good idea of who performed well, who didn't and who the player of the game might be.

    But for reassurance, surprises, extra info and everything in between, we've gone back over the film, as well as the box score, to see who made it happen for the 49ers in Week 16. For an in-depth look at the individual performances from Monday night's win over the Atlanta Falcons—complete with gradesproceed through the following. 

    Grading criteria:

    1. Expectations: Some players can look really good out there, but how much did they leave on the field?
    2. Statistics: If a player was blanked, booming or something in between, this plays a significant role as to how he was graded.
    3. Impact: Stats are great and all, but how did those yards come in garbage time or on 3rd-and-long? The clutch value factors in here.
    4. Consistency: One big play can change a game, but consistency on every down can make sure you win it. Who was bringing it on every play?


    Statistics provided by ESPN.com Game Center and Pro Football Reference, unless specified otherwise.


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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Colin Kaepernick: A-

    If we’re judging just by the second half, this would be an A-plus, but the 49ers quarterback had a slow start.

    San Francisco was beating up the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter, but Kaepernick and company could not capitalize with a score.

    It would have been nice for them to get up on the visiting team and perhaps put this one away early. Kap needs to work on starting faster as the leader of the offense. He also got away with two potential picks. 

    Nevertheless, he had another productive do-it-all performance, totaling nearly 250 all-purpose yards and scoring two touchdowns while not turning the ball over once.

    At the end of the day, he averaged 9.4 yards per pass attempt, which is stellar and a sign that the 49ers are getting the big-play ability back in the passing offense.

Running Back

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Frank Gore: A

    This was a terrific send-off by one of the greats to play at Candlestick Park, as Gore rumbled for 4.6 yards per carry and came up just shy of the century mark. He also managed to punch one in the end zone one last time, which was fitting. It was also Gore’s 60th career rushing TD.


    Kendall Hunter: B+

    In his backup role with the 49ers, Kendall Hunter continues to make every single touch count. He carried just three times on Monday night, but he ripped off the longest run of the day, which was a 45-yarder to set up the Gore touchdown. Hunter is one of the better backups in the league because of the long-run threat.


    LaMichael James: B+

    Tailback LaMichael James did not have any carries or even targets, but he continued to show his effort on the special teams unit. He had two nice kick returns to position the offense, averaging 24.5 yards per return. He also had two punt returns at 10.0 yards a pop.

    He’s been a big help.


    Will Tukuafu and Anthony Dixon: A

    Defensive tackle Will Tukuafu and fourth-string tailback Anthony Dixon stepped out of their respective comfort zones to fill in at fullback. This was their debut in the rotation, as they were filling in for an injured Bruce Miller, who was lost for the season. It was a positive sign that the ground game didn’t miss a step, as the run offense chewed up 199 yards on the ground with three different runners.

Tight End

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    Vernon Davis: N/A

    Vernon Davis’ “performance” in particular was peculiar, mainly because he had to leave the game with a poke to the eye. He was out for a period of time, and when he returned, he didn’t look like himself. Davis had one potential touchdown within reach but could not see the ball until it was too late.

    This showing is a wash.


    Vance McDonald: C-

    Nothing was wrong with Vance McDonald, so he does not get a pass here. The 49ers' No. 2 tight end was back in the lineup after missing games with an ankle injury. There was nothing out of the ordinary with his game. In fact, he picked up right where he left off: blocking and not receiving.

    McDonald was on par blocking in the trenches, but he whiffed badly on a deep ball that was intended for him while Davis was out.

Wide Receiver

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Anquan Boldin: A+

    49ers wideout Anquan Boldin had another beastly performance, hauling in six of seven targets for 72 yards and a touchdown.

    It’s official: San Francisco finally has two dominant wideouts capable of carrying the load. This is a relief, as Boldin as provided quite the security blanket for Kaepernick.

    His night in Week 16 put him over 1,000 yards for the season for the first time since 2009 (his last season with the Arizona Cardinals).


    Michael Crabtree: A+

    Crabtree also had a big game, which was easily his best since returning from the Achilles injury. He saw his second most targets in 2013, racking up five grabs for 102 yards (20.4 yards per catch). It is safe to say that he is looking more confident by the day.

    His back-to-back big plays in the second half sparked the 49ers’ comeback. He pulled in a 47-yarder and then followed up with a 19-yarder to set up the Boldin TD.


    Quinton Patton: N/A

    Quinton Patton got the go-ahead from the 49ers staff, replacing Mario Manningham, who is working through an injury. Unfortunately, Patton did not see a lot of the field and was not targeted a single time. This makes what Boldin and Crabtree did all the more special, also since they had zero help from the tight ends.

Offensive Line

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Joe Staley: A-

    49ers left tackle Joe Staley did let up a sack, but it was more about the lack of situational awareness by the quarterback. Otherwise, he had a solid day in protection. Kaepernick felt comfortable in the pocket and was able to drop back and make the throws he had to in order to win the game.


    Mike Iupati: A

    After missing games with an MCL injury, Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati returned to the lineup, bringing San Francisco’s O-line back to full strength since Week 11 at New Orleans. He made his presence felt immediately as the 49ers punched holes in the Atlanta front and sprang the runners loose.


    Jonathan Goodwin: C+

    Center Jonathan Goodwin had a so-so game—as good as the average starting NFL center. He did let up a sack to defensive tackle Corey Peters on a 3rd-and-4, which killed the drive early in the first quarter. He finished well after that, but Atlanta did get pressure up the middle on occasion and had four hits on Kaepernick.


    Alex Boone: A

    With his bash brother back in the lineup, guard Alex Boone looked juiced to be hitting again and was effective at grinding out plays on the right side. Frank Gore was able to pick up a touchdown behind Boone, and Kendall Hunter’s big run also came around that end.


    Anthony Davis: A

    Right tackle Anthony Davis remained a pillar on the right side of the line, holding off edge pressure for the most part. Both he and Staley gave impressive showings, containing a blitz-happy Falcons defense. Davis kept Osi Umenyiora quiet on the day as well.

Defensive Tackle

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Justin Smith: A

    49ers All-Pro Justin Smith was a menace on Monday night, racking up five tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss and two QB hits. Destroying Atlanta’s protection, he also had countless pressures. Not to mention his ability to crash down on the run, keeping lanes shut.


    Glenn Dorsey: B+

    Glenn Dorsey had a solid outing for the 49ers, piling up three tackles and helping to bottle up running back Steven Jackson. The Falcons were trying to pound him up the middle early and often, but Dorsey held tight. If Jackson had been a factor, this might have been a different ballgame.


    Ray McDonald: A

    San Francisco’s left defensive tackle Ray McDonald played well, setting the edge, stopping the run and pressuring Matt Ryan. His ability to consistently play clean up and back up Justin Smith and the linebackers is huge. He finished with two tackles, including one for a loss, but he was a bigger presence than the box score would indicate.


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    h/t Steve Berman, BASG

    Patrick Willis: A+

    Patrick Willis was all over the grid on Monday night. He had, wait for it—18 tackles against the Atlanta Falcons. This was circa 2007 Willis, when he was a daisy-fresh rookie without any help. No. 52 also had three tackles for a loss, a couple of pass breakups and a helmet-losing run stop.

    The veteran linebacker gave an impressive display in his final game at the ‘Stick.


    NaVorro Bowman: A++

    With his late-game heroics, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was the star of the game.

    While the failure to recover the onside kick did fall on his shoulders, he redeemed himself and then some by coming up with a high-concentration pick-six to seal the game and write the final chapter in Candlestick’s history.

    This play will also be remembered for sending the 49ers to their third-straight playoff appearance. In addition to his monumental play, Bowman finished with 11 tackles, one tackle for a loss and one pass deflection.


    Ahmad Brooks: B

    All of the 49ers’ linebackers showed up and put forth a strong game, but they lacked a bit on the edges. The pressure was not getting home consistently, which was a surprise considering how shoddy the Atlanta O-line was. Brooks did do a fine job of setting the edge and helping free Willis and Bowman up, though.


    Aldon Smith: B-

    Where was Aldon Smith in this game? He only finished with one tackle, and that was a run stop. The pressures were not coming as anticipated, and he only had one hit on Matt Ryan all night. And that’s against one of the worst blindside protections in football. Smith wasn’t terrible, but he was not impressive.


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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Carlos Rogers: C+

    Carlos Rogers did not have the best game on Monday night, as the Atlanta receivers impacted the game.

    He had a dropped interception and also jumped a route that wound up turning into a 59-yard reception for wideout Drew Davis. It was partly Rogers’ fault that Atlanta was in this game.


    Tramaine Brock: A

    For those who keep waiting for Tramaine Brock’s performance to drop off one of these weeks, you’re going to have to keep twiddling your thumbs. He has been a rock for the cornerback unit this season, taking away receivers, breaking up passes, making interceptions and even tackling.

    On Monday, he was the team’s third-leading tackler with five takedowns. He also had two pass deflections and assisted the NaVorro Bowman interception. He had another big-time game.


    Tarell Brown: B+

    49ers cornerback Tarell Brown also put forth a solid game, contributing a few pass breakups. He could hang his hat on this performance, as he looked like the second best corner on the field on Monday. He is beginning to get back into his stride after returning from injury.


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    h/t Steve Berman, BASG

    Eric Reid: A

    49ers free safety Eric Reid did let up his first touchdown of the season, letting one get over his head to wideout Roddy White. However, it was not entirely his fault.

    Outside of that, he was outstanding. Arguably his key moment was when he contributed to the game-ending interception, blasting Matt Ryan on the safety blitz. He also finished with two tackles and managed to keep the play in front of him in run support.


    Donte Whitner: A-

    Unfortunately, the most notable moment for Whitner in this game was an illegal hit on the running back, which was a poor call by the refs. There was no doubt that the strong safety was giving the runner all shoulder. Whitner still had a strong game outside of that, racking up five solo tackles.

Special Teams

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Andy Lee: A+

    Andy Lee secretly had a monstrous day for San Francisco, punting three times for total of 156 yards (52.0 YPP).

    Seeing as how Atlanta’s offense was alive and kicking in this game, the 49ers needed Lee to be on point. This was a good showing from the All-Pro punter in a game where San Fran needed a three-phase win.


    Phil Dawson: A

    Placekicker Phil Dawson hit a 49-yarder and a 30-yarder to give San Francisco six points when the offense failed to score. He has drilled 26 consecutive field goals for the 49ers, continuing to build on a franchise record.