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Grading 49ers' offense, defense in preseason win over Packers

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This is about as good as it gets for NFL preseason games.

Now, feel free to skip ahead a month to the start of the regular season.

The 49ers decided to keep 20 of their top players safely on the sideline Friday night for the 28-21 preseason-opening win over the Green Bay Packers.

But the player who will likely have more influence on the season than any other player was out there. Second-year quarterback Trey Lance started and played 11 snaps. And before he exited, he gave the fans something to remember.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ report card from the evening at Levi’s Stadium:

Rushing offense

Running backs Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson did not suit up. Also, the 49ers are trying to integrate three new interior offensive linemen into their lineup. So it’s probably not a big surprise the running game did not appear to be in sync.

Right guard Spencer Burford started and played 27 snaps. His performance was a mixed bag, as coach Kyle Shanahan immediately recognized at least a couple of mistakes. But that’s all part of the process.

The 49ers hope to see Ty Davis-Price or Trey Sermon (or both) emerge as decisive runners in the team’s outside-zone scheme. Davis-Price gained 36 yards on 10 rushing attempts, while Sermon managed just 11 yards on six rushing attempts.

Grade: C-minus

Passing offense

The 49ers’ defense generally has gotten the best of the team’s offense during training camp practices. Lance, Nate Sudfeld and Brock Purdy seemed to thoroughly enjoy facing another defense on Friday night.


Lance and rookie receiver Danny Gray teamed up on the highlight of the evening. Gray showed his 4.33 speed, and Lance delivered a well-thrown pass down the left sideline that traveled 42 yards in the air. Gray took it the rest of the way for a 76-yard touchdown.

Lance completed four of five pass attempts for 92 yards. His only misfire was when he led Gray too much on a third-and-9 pass at the right sideline.

Sudfeld completed eight of 11 passes for 103 yards with a 39-yard touchdown to Ray-Ray McCloud, and Purdy added a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tanner Hudson, as well as the two-point conversion to KeeSean Johnson.

The three QBs combined for a 142.2 passer rating.

Grade: A

Rushing defense

Linebacker Oren Burks led the way with eight tackles while playing 46 snaps on defense. Robert Nkemdiche, Curtis Robinson and Dontae Johnson each had one tackle for loss.

The 49ers’ defense allowed a 25-yard run to open the fourth quarter, but the run defense was generally sound.

Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw played 14 snaps and was not credited with any stops. But his main duty in the middle of the D-line will be to clog run lanes and allow linebackers to make tackles while being unblocked.

Grade: B-minus

Passing defense

Rookie nickel back Sam Womack had the best evening of any 49ers player with two interceptions of Packers quarterback Jordan Love, a first-round draft pick in 2020.

There was nothing flukey about either of his interceptions, either. He wrestled the ball away from Romeo Doubs near the sideline. Then, Womack had perfect coverage against Amari Rodgers to make another pick. He returned that one 50 yards to set up a field goal.

Linebacker Marcelino McCrary-Ball also had an interception.

The 49ers surrendered three touchdown passes. Defensive backs Tarvarius Moore, Ka’dar Hollman and Dontae Johnson were the main culprits on those scoring plays.

Grade: B-plus

Special teams

Kicker Robbie Gould made a tackle, and that is never a good thing on a couple of different levels. First, it should never get to the point that the kicker has to make a tackle. Second, the kicker should never put himself in position to make a tackle in the preseason.

Gould nailed both field-goal attempts, including a 50-yarder. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky planted two of his efforts inside the 20.

JaMycal Hasty, who has experience as a kick returner, made an inexcusable mental mistake when he took a kickoff out of bounds at the 5-yard line. If he touched the ball while standing out of bounds, the 49ers would have gotten the ball at 40-yard line. It appeared as if Hasty did not know the rule.

Grade: D-minus


Coach Kyle Shanahan faced a dilemma as the 49ers entered the preseason. He does not want to put too much on film and give the Chicago Bears any kind of heads-up for their regular-season opener.


But he also wants Lance to experience some success and enter the regular season with confidence. Shanahan played it perfectly on Friday, finding a favorable one-on-one matchup for the 49ers to exploit for the long Lance-to-Gray touchdown.

RELATED: Lance kept it simple in 49ers' preseason win over Packers

The 49ers reduced unnecessary risks to their roster with the decision to keep 20 of their top players out of action. It all worked out just fine.

Grade: A


Yes, this is only the preseason -- and the world will little note, nor long remember what  transpired at Levi’s Stadium.

But it is also safe to say the night could not have gone much better. There were some nice plays and plenty of teaching moments for the coaching staff to drill into those who got onto the field.

Grade: A-minus

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