Report Card = Rams @ 49'ers
Here is the way I saw it:
QUARTERBACK - Bulger passed for nearly 300 yards, but he had a typical erratic day that we've seen all season. Bulger can seemingly put together two or three consecutive good throws, only to follow with a horrible mistake. Bulger worked to get the ball out quickly today, but he often reacted to pressure that was not there. On two of the sacks, he had at least five seconds to throw, and failed to find an open receiver, or to throw it away. He just looks very confused at this point. He just barely missed Avery on a deep seam route in the first quarter - the ball was slightly underthrown, but the rookie has to find a way to make that play. The main problem I saw in Bulger again this week is predetermining his throws before the snap. It's hard to pinpoint how big an issue this really is, but some great camera angles in this game often showed wideouts sitting open in the flat, particularly on some third downs. It seems either Bulger throws to the flat too quickly before the routes develop, or he is absolutely deadset on throwing deep to Avery, often into double or triple coverage. A very shaky day but Bulger, a day when he had enough time to be dangerous. It should be noted that he made a nifty move and put his head down on a run to get a first down. No doubt the guy is tough, but he is just too big a mental case right now to be a success.
RUNNING BACKS: Superb effort by this group today. It's really hard to complain when your backup running back and a guy off the street manage to rack up 200 yards of offense. Pittman ran hard and seemingly regained his burst. He picked his holes wisely and showed an ability to get through the second line of defense very quickly, a trait we haven't seen from him in the past. He failed to haul in a potential TD pass early, but he was well covered. Darby continues to show that he can be a definitive option as the third-down back on this team. He picked up one blitz nicely, and ran very hard. Ignore the big five yard loss as that was not on him. Most impressively though, he caught 8 passes out of the backfield and showed an ability to make the defender miss. This is something we do not have with Travis Minor. I didn't see anything of value out of Kreider today, and we definitely need to upgrade that position. Regardless, Pittman and Darby caused significant damage against a 49'ers defense that has not been generous to running backs the past two weeks.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Donnie Avery showed the entire arsenal today, making some yardage out of some smoke routes, cataching a couple intermediate routes, and making an awesome catch down the sideline for a big gain. He needs to make the play on that seam route that Bulger throws in the first quarter. He needs to work on positioning his body better, but overall, Avery showed how big a weapon he can be today. He seemingly has great hands, something that was questioned when he was drafted in the 2nd round. Holt got open a few times today, but boy does he look slow when he gets the ball. I cannot see him as anything other than a glorified possession receiver at this point. It would not surprise me if he doesn't stick next year. Burton and Stanley had a couple balls thrown their way, as they look to get into the mix a little more. Burton nearly came down with a very tough ball near the goalline as he was smashed by two defenders. Stanley showed amazing burst on a smoke route thrown his way. Both players work extremely hard and are willing blockers. Looker caught a short TD, but I just don't think he fits in at this point. The young guys need to reps, as they need to learn the ins and outs of the system.
OFFENSIVE LINE: An OK day by this group. Incognito made two massive blocks that sprung both of Pittman's long gains. Cogs is an average pass blocker at best, but he is a major mauler when it comes to the run game, and he has been overlooked this year. Put an above average center next to him, and I think he can cause some real damage. It looks like Pace is done for the year. Goldberg did an admirable job filling in after he went down, but I doubt he is the long term solution. Bell seemed to have one of his better games, and didn't noticably get broken down. Barron continues to be an enigma. He can looked dominant on one series, and horrid on the next. Looks like we might finally get to see what Greco can do. It should be noted that Romberg filled in for Incognito and did a solid job. We seriously need to upgrade Leckey, he is just too big a liability in space.
DEFENSIVE LINE: So-so day from this group. It is amazing the lack pressure we are able to generate. Long is still learning, but Little has not been a factor the past couple of weeks. It's likely his hamstring is still bothering him. Adeyanju was strong against the run, but he was the only one. Carriker was doing a solid job of clogging up two guys in the middle, but our linebackers failed to take advantage. Long whiffed on an attempt to stuff Gore for a loss, and he ultimately scored a touchdown. It's hard to really put a grade on this group, because we are having such a hard time stopping the run. The problem is, yet again, so many of Gore's big runs came to the outside. The D-line has been effective at forcing running to bounce it outside, yet the linebackers and DB's just cannot contain.
LINEBACKERS: Don't be fooled by the large number of tackles made by Witherspoon and Pisa. Many of these came far downfield after they had been pushed into the second tier by offensive lineman. Many, many times today we had Gore bottled up by the interior line, only to have him bounce outside for a big gainer. I just don't understand the struggles, as these guys just seem to constantly be out of position. They did not seem to have these types of breakdowns last year. No significant breakdowns in coverage, but we are never going to be effective against the run if we cannot seal off the edges or force guys to the sideline. Culberson was relatively ineffective again, and if I ever have to see him celebrate a tackle when we are down 35-6, I think I might kill myself. Vobora hung in there when called upon, but yet again, just another subpar effect from this group, and they are killing us when it comes to stopping the run.
SECONDARY: As soon as Bartell went down, I knew this was going to be a long day for the secondary. Bartell is the only physical presence we have in the secondary, and with him out, coupled with little or no pressure on Hill, he was able to torch Brown and Craft repeatedly to the tune of a 142.0+ QB rating. Craft did show some skills as a blitzer, and he might prove a viable option as a dime back and a blitzer in the future, but he is not even close to suitable as a starting CB, which he essentially was for the majority of the game. Chavous played the run okay but got burned in coverage by V. Davis for a TD. Atogwe made an awesome strip on Gore early, and make some crucial tackles, including a stop to prevent a punt return for a TD. Jonathan Wade looked ok in coverage but completely lost my support by giving up in punt coverage at the end of the game. That is just unacceptable.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Brown was 3-4 but missed a crucial field goal in the first quarter than stole alot of our momentum. Jones had a superb day, despite the average of just over 41.0 yards a kick. He was playing with a shorter field today and put three puts inside the 20. Coverage units were ok although Rossum almost got free if not for Atogwe. Stills was very active.
COACHING: I just don't know what to say. I think Haslett is in a no win situation. He has alot of talent on this team, but the guys just do not beleive. Other teams around the league with less talent than us continue to win because the players are busting their tails. There are guys on this team that do care, but there are some that do not. I do not know what the answer is, but if a fiery guy like Haslett cannot get this team motivated, then who can? Saunders refuses to take advantage of the middle of the field and seems lost without a viable option at tight end. The defense in atrocious in all aspects, and they seemingly can do nothing right.