STL-SF grades: Donald's performance earns all-time grade in loss
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the 49ers’ 19-16 win over the Rams.
St. Louis Rams
– DT Aaron Donald (+15.4) closed out his All-Pro caliber season with one of the most dominant games in the PFF era (2007-present). Donald was in the backfield on what seemed like every single snap, and earned huge grades for both pass rushing (four hits, four hurries, and a batted pass) and run defense. While J.J. Watt, Geno Atkins, Ndamukong Suh, and Kawann Short were all tremendously productive this season, Donald’s +104.0 cumulative season grade leads all NFL interior defensive linemen by nearly 30 points. Donald was the best interior lineman against both the run and the pass in 2015, just his second year in the league.
– LT Greg Robinson (+3.2) earned his first green-graded game (+1.0 or better) of the season after earning a +2.5 run blocking grade and allowing just one hurry in pass protection. This was only the second game of the season in which Robinson earned a positive grade, making 2015 a disappointing season for the second-overall pick of the 2014 draft. Robinson’s athleticism and power were on display at times yesterday, however, especially when he was asked to pull and screen block. Robinson ranks 74th of 76 NFL tackles, with a -26.6 cumulative pass blocking grade this season, and will need to show drastic improvement in that area in 2016.
– QB Case Keenum (-0.6) was just 3-of-11 for 83 yards on passes thrown more than 10+ yards in this game. Keenum did not turn the ball over, but did not make many big plays, either, as St. Louis was content to run a conservative offensive game plan. The 49ers blitzed just eight times in the game and finished without a sack, but were disruptive when they brought extra rushers. Keenum finished one-of-eight for 9 yards and a -1.3 grade against the blitz, and 4-of-13 for 34 yards and a -1.5 grade under pressure.
DT Aaron Donald (+15.4)
DE William Hayes (+6.1)
LT Greg Robinson (+3.2)
DT Michael Brockers (+2.5)
HB Benny Cunningham (+2.1)
San Francisco 49ers
– San Francisco’s rushing offense was a nonfactor in this game, as their offensive line was unable to get any movement against an excellent St. Louis front seven. All five offensive linemen and both starting tight ends for the 49ers earned red grades (below -1.0) for run blocking, and San Francisco gained just 93 total rushing yards at 2.8 yards per carry. HB DuJuan Harris (+3.1) was the team’s leading rusher with 67 yards, and also led the team with eight catches and 86 receiving yards.
– While he was not able to crack the starting lineup this season, 2015 first-round pick DE Arik Armstead (+2.4) enjoyed a successful rookie year. Armstead earned green grades (+1.0 or better) for both pass rushing and run defense this year, and his +14.0 overall grade was second only to the Jets’ Leonard Williams among rookie interior defensive linemen. Second-year OLB Aaron Lynch (+2.3) also had a strong season, especially as a pass rusher (14.3 pass rushing productivity ranks fourth of 33 qualifying NFL 3-4 OLBs). As they head into an uncertain offseason, the 49ers can be confident that they have building blocks in their front seven in Armstead and Lynch.
– QB Blaine Gabbert (-2.6) earned a red grade (below -1.0) for the fourth time in his last six games, despite his production against the blitz (10-of-16 for 20 yards, one TD, +1.9 grade). Gabbert fumbled twice, and was also intercepted. He also struggled under pressure (7-of-17 for 86 yards, one INT, -1.1 grade). After performing well in his first two starts, Gabbert has given the 49ers little reason to believe that he is their long-term answer at the quarterback position.
HB DuJuan Harris (+3.2)
DE Arik Armstead (+2.4)
WR Quinton Patton (+2.4)
OLB Aaron Lynch (+2.3)
CB Jimmy Ward (+1.5)