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Failing grades for 49ers' offense, defense in loss to Colts

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SANTA CLARA -- While we are doling out grades for the 49ers, let’s start on a positive note.

Remember the early days of Levi’s Stadium when the sod was regularly ridiculed?

Now, about the only positive thing that can be said about the organization is that their grass performed up to — and even exceeded — expectations.

And that is a lot more than we can say about the football team after a 30-18 rain-drenched, lackluster loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.

Here are the grades from the 49ers’ fourth consecutive loss, which played out in front of an increasingly agitated home crowd and a national television audience:

Rushing offense

Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell got off to a great start, and he did most of the damage as the 49ers moved the ball easily down the field against the Colts. He had consecutive runs of 20, 14 and 14 yards. His last attempt during that stretch was a touchdown.

He finished with 107 yards on 18 rushing attempts for a 5.9-yard average. But after that first drive, the 49ers’ run game had little impact against the Colts’ eight-man fronts. JaMycal Hasty had 1 yard on three carries, and Brandon Aiyuk had 3 yards on one carry.

Grade: B-minus.

Passing offense

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo returned to action after missing the 49ers’ Week 5 game with a calf injury. This was a stinker. He completed 16 of 27 pass attempts for 181 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble on a sack.

 

Deebo Samuel led the 49ers with seven receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. But he also lost a fumble after a reception. Garoppolo was sacked twice. Again, Samuel was the only threat the 49ers had in the passing game.

Tight end Charlie Woerner started and was the team’s second-leading receiver with two catches for 30 yards. Everyone is still waiting for Brandon Aiyuk to produce. He saw one pass thrown his way. He caught it for a 6-yard gain.

Grade: F

Rushing defense

The 49ers’ run defense gave up 148 yards and two touchdowns with a 4.5-yard average. Jonathan Taylor led the way for the Colts with 107 yards on 18 carries. The 49ers’ run defense was certainly not great, but they made up for it with two takeaways.

Cornerback Josh Norman forced two fumbles, while Kentavius Street forced one. Fred Warner and Azeez Al-Shaair had recoveries — although Al-Shaair’s “fumble recovery” sure looked like an interception of a Carson Wentz attempted shovel pass.

Grade: C-plus

Passing defense

On a night when it looked as if it would be nearly impossible for either team to have much success through the air, well, someone forgot to tell that to the Colts. Wentz completed 17 of 26 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. had four catches for 105 yards.

Wentz’s statistics do not reflect the 89 yards in pass-interference penalties that he drew against the 49ers. One of those was declined because Pittman still managed to catch a 57-yard pass on Norman. K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley and Jaquiski Tartt were flagged for pass-interference penalties. All four of the Colts’ touchdowns were aided by 49ers’ mistakes in coverage.

Dre Kirkpatrick gave up the game-clinching touchdown when he failed to make a play on the ball, which resulted in Pittman’s 28-yard touchdown grab with 2:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Grade: F

Special teams

New kicker Joey Slye made field goals of 34 and 56 yards. He also missed an extra point. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky had a strong net of 47.0 yards on three punts. Samuel averaged 30.0 yards on two kickoff returns.

Brandon Aiyuk had a muffed punt that could have been a disaster, but it resulted in only a touchback. 

Grade: D

Coaching 

Of course, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff is going to be subject to criticism after this one — just the latest missteps during a four-game losing streak. “Yeah, you lose four games in a row, I’m the coach of this team,” Shanahan said. “I expect it and I deserve it.”

RELATED: Shanahan explains curious challenge call

You can start with the play-calling, as the 49ers ran the ball successfully on the first drive of the game. After a takeaway, Mitchell ripped off a 12-yard gain. Then, the 49ers stalled when Garoppolo threw for no gain to Samuel on first down, and incomplete on second and third downs. The 49ers completely lost momentum after that.

 

There was a major mistake at the beginning of the third quarter when Shanahan threw the challenge flag on a play that simply could not have been overturned. That was an inexcusable mistake. The 49ers look like a bad team right now, and the coaching staff has not shown to be part of the solution.

Grade: F

Overall

There is one thing that has been a constant for the 49ers during their four-game losing streak: Whenever the game reaches a critical juncture, the 49ers drop the ball.

It’s the coaching. It’s the players. It’s everything. The 49ers have been outperformed every step of the way in their losses to Green Bay, Seattle, Arizona and, now, Indianapolis.

The offense has been miserable in the most-crucial situations. And the defense, which has largely been good, constantly flails away and panics on passes thrown deep down the field.

There are no excuses to be made. The 49ers were bad . . . again.

Grade: F

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