Report Card: 49ers vs Broncos


Quarterback: C

Colin Kaepernick followed-up the most complete performance of his young career with a dud. His lone interception was…weird. He lofted the ball into double coverage and was easily intercepted by Aqib Talib. I have no other descriptive words besides weird – I still don’t know what he was thinking on that play. Chalk it up to a miscommunication.

Kap’s struggles, however, were a byproduct of terrible offensive line play. He was sacked six times (-53 yards) in the game – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were impossible to stop and showcased the speed to chase Kaepernick and bring him down. It’s a concern if these teams meet in the Super Bowl.

In the first half, Kap was steady and found his second and third reads during sustained drives. Anquan Boldin had a pivotal drop with the 49ers down 14-3. Had he caught the ball, he would have walked into the end zone untouched, and perhaps the momentum would have lead to a tighter game.

Kaepernick’s shining moment came right before halftime. He led a seven play, 80-yard drive in the last 2:58 to bring the 49ers within striking distance at 21-10. We know the rest of the story.

Not all Kap’s fault, but far from a great performance.

Running Back: D-

It’s feast or famine with this group.

It has been a wildly inconsistent season for Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde, and last night was no different. The running back position accumulated just 35-yards rushing in the game. The Niners came into the game averaging nearly 140 ypg on the ground. Not hard to see that this disparity was an issue yesterday.

Credit goes to the Broncos’ stout front. They bulldozed the 49ers’ offensive line the entire game.

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Wide Receiver: C-

There were two key drops in the game; one by Boldin, the other by Michael Crabtree. This isn’t an issue going forward, but if you want to beat the Broncos, you have to make plays.

Stevie Johnson was the best receiver on the field, and his awkward yet smooth route-running ability created space throughout the game. He lead all receivers with 79-yards.

Also, why isn’t Brandon Lloyd receiving more targets? He makes a jaw-dropping catch in every game, and had it not been for an inaccurate throw by Kap, he would have hauled in a 65-yard touchdown. Greg Roman would be wise to increase his workload.

Bruce Ellington had his first touchdown reception of the year in garbage time. Congrats to the rookie.

Tight End: F-

Two things:

1.) What  happened to Vernon Davis?

2.) Why isn’t Derek Carrier playing more?

Vernon is in the midst of his worst season as a pro. He looks slow, he misses blocks, he fails to create separation, he’s no longer a deep threat, he’s stopped running seam-routes and he drops passes.

I don’t like assumptions, but we know that Vernon wants a pay raise. Perhaps this is his way of creating an out down the road. Vernon needs to pick it up, and fast.

With Vernon’s struggles and Vance McDonald‘s rock hands, why hasn’t Carrier seen more action? He made catches earlier in the year that no other tight end on this team has.

This was the worst performance of the year from this unit.

Offensive Line: F-

I sympathized for this group yesterday.

Daniel Kilgore fractured his ankle and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season. Rookie third round draft pick, Marcus Martin, will take over at center. Kilgore was one of the lone bright spots on this decimated offensive line and will be missed.

Oct 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco 49ers center Daniel Kilgore (67) is taken off the field due to an leg injury in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the 49ers 42-17. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis was nowhere near 100% and should not have played yesterday. Challenging him with Von Miller was a bad decision by the 49ers’ coaching staff. He deserved to rest through the bye week, as winning this game with so many injuries was always going to be difficult.

And most appalling of all was the play of Joe Staley. He yielded half of the six sacks and produced a negative grade in both pass and run blocking. Add the inordinate amount of penalties accrued thus far, and 2014 has been a season to forget for the once-dominant left tackle.

The 49ers – primarily the Jim Harbaugh Era 49ers – win games in the trenches. They’ve lost most of these battles in 2014. If the 49ers are to rattle off a winning streak, it will come from improved play by the offensive line.

Defensive Line: F-

Ronnie Hillman burned the 49ers defense for 74-yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, including a 37-yard score to put the game out of reach midway through the third quarter. He was rarely touched before the line of scrimmage.

Ian Williams was the only player on the defensive line to net a positive grade yesterday. Playing against Peyton Manning makes the strongest of men look like boys, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday. This was the most ineffective game in recent memory from this unit.

The only positive play was Aaron Lynch‘s first sack as a professional. Outside of that, nobody bothered to show up. 

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  • Linebacker: F

    Anytime you’re missing Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis you’re in trouble. Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland are capable backups, but the latter is too small to play in coverage. There were multiple out routes where his height was exposed.

    Ahmad Brooks showed the fire that’s been missing this season, twice getting to Manning and flat-backing Hillman on a tackle for loss. Once the above trio returns, less pressure will be on Brooks’s shoulders, and he should rediscover his All-Pro form.

    This unit will look different after the bye, as it’s possible Smith’s suspension will be reduced. Fingers crossed.

    Secondary: F

    Manning was nearly perfect in this game. Football is a game of strings. To win, all these strings must work together. The 49ers failed to muster a pass-rush and Manning picked them apart, just like he does with every team that allows him time and space.

    Manning was 22/26 for 318-yards and four touchdowns in roughly three quarters of work. It was all too easy.

    Tramaine Brock returned but was awful in coverage. As noted by Rodney Harrison, Brock failed to guard the goal line on Manning’s record breaking touchdown. On plays like that, you sit on the line and force the quarterback to beat you over the top with a fade. Instead, he dropped five-yards into the end zone and Manning threw a dart towards the pylon for an eager Demaryius Thomas. Touchdown.

    Brock will be fine going forward, but he was a major liability yesterday.

    And where’s Eric Reid? He has just 14-tackles in seven games. Not once did I hear his name mentioned during yesterday’s telecast. He must step-up his game and become the leader the 49ers envisioned when trading up for him in the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Special Teams: C+

    Phil Dawson missed a 51-yard field goal wide left in the comfortable altitude of Denver. He’s a rock and will be fine going forward

    Andy Lee had a 71-yard punt in the game, which is flat-out ridiculous. Still, anytime you punt the ball five times it’s a bad sign.

    Ellington’s lone kick return went for 33-yards. After a year filled with fair-catches, it was nice to see Bruce gain some badly needed yards.

    Coaching: F

    I understand carrying momentum into your next game, but with the bye week approaching, why did Harbaugh leave his starters in for the fourth-quarter, especially after losing his starting center for the season?

    This made zero sense.

    Vic Fangio lost his chess match with Manning, and Roman was in trouble the second the ground game sputtered.

    Simply put, the 49ers were out-coached and outplayed.