In our final report card of the season, here are our grades from the 49ers’ 48-32 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday:
Passing offense: F
Quarterback Nick Mullens was intercepted three times in the first half. He was hit as he threw on his first two, once when reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald beat two blockers as Mullens looked for tight end George Kittle, who was triple covered in the end zone. Cory Littleton had the first interception and returned a second 19 yards for a touchdown. On the bright side, rookie seventh-round pick Richie James notched his first receiving touchdown late in the first half. Kittle caught nine passes for 149 yards to finish with 1,377 yards receiving, breaking the season record for tight ends of 1,336 held by Kansas City’s Travis Kelce for about an hour. Kelce earlier broke Rob Gronkowski’s record of 1,327, set in 2011. An F might be a harsh grade, considering Mullens’ overall numbers, but the turnovers were the reason this turned into an early blowout.
Rushing offense: B
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The 49ers entered Sunday at the bottom of the NFL with just six rushing touchdowns. Veteran Alfred Morris gave them their seventh, scoring from 1 yard out in the third quarter. He finished with 111 yards on 16 carries after replacing rookie Jeff Wilson Jr., who exited in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. San Francisco didn’t have much use for the run after falling behind by 25 in the first half. But they were productive, statistically, with 127 yards on the ground.
Passing defense: F
Rams receiver Brandin Cooks scored two touchdowns before halftime. He was wide open on third down near the goal line moments after the Rams’ first interception, where it appeared the 49ers lost track of him in zone coverage. The second came on a bubble screen, and Cooks broke two tackles en route to an 18-yard score. Jared Goff passed for 199 yards and four touchdowns (a 121.6 rating) before exiting late in the fourth quarter.
Rushing defense: D
C.J. Anderson, replacing star tailback Todd Gurley, rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the first half, when the game was essentially put out of reach. Anderson finished with 132 yards on 23 carries (a 5.7 average).
Special teams: B
Robbie Gould made his only field-goal attempt and all three extra-point tries, giving him another clean sheet before his pending free agency. Gould appears to be the 49ers’ most likely candidate for the franchise tag, which they haven’t used since 2012 on safety Dashon Goldson. Bradley Pinion averaged 49.5 yards on two punts.
The 49ers started an undrafted quarterback (Mullens), undrafted No. 1 receiver (Kendrick Bourne), undrafted starting running back (Wilson) and played several reserves on defense, as they have throughout the season. It’s hard to blame the coaching staff entirely for this bad performance, but losing wasn’t necessarily bad news, given the need for the best draft pick possible.