Each week Press Democrat sports writer Eric Branch will grade the 49ers' effort. Today a look at how they did on Sunday against the Chiefs at Kansas City...

<b.Quarterback

D</b>

Two steps forward. Three (four?) steps back. Even on the rare occasions when he had time, Alex Smith looked jittery. Before the final garbage-time drive, Smith's QB rating was 49.8, which is not good.

<b>Running backs

C</b>

As usual, Gore ran hard up the middle, but often into a wall of red. He finished with 145 yards - 44 on the final drive.

<b>Wide receivers/tight ends

D</b>

Vernon Davis (3 catches, 22 yards) was nearly invisible and the wideouts appear unable to stretch the field. Josh Morgan's last-play TD was his first catch of the game and the first TD grab by a WR this season.

<b>Offensive line

F</b>

Two steps forward. Oh, we already did that. Well, these guys regressed quite badly, too. Five sacks allowed. Two rushing first downs. Rookie RT Anthony Davis was repeatedly abused by LB Tamba Hali (career-high 3 sacks).

<b>Defensive line

D</b>

Wasn't this run defense an unquestioned strength? The Chiefs had 207 rushing yards, the most the Niners have allowed since 2004.

<b>Linebackers

D</b>

I'll resist the urge to copy and paste the details above. This group appeared completely miffed by the Chiefs' endless screen passes. LB Patrick Willis had eight tackles, but he did so rather quietly. Oh, right, almost forgot ... no sacks.

<b>Secondary

D</b>

The previously struggling Matt Cassel got healthy against this group. Cassel had 250 yards - six more than he managed in his first two games - and had his first three-TD game in Kansas City. He entered with a 55.8 QB rating, a number he doubled (111.7) Sunday.

<b>Special teams

C</b>

Here's a positive - new punt returner Kyle Williams didn't lose a fumble (or gain a yard on his one return). The punt-coverage unit allowed returns of 19 and 30 yards.

<b>Coaching/overall

F</b>

The play-calling was, at times, dumbfounding. Three straight runs while trailing by 21 points with 16 minutes left? The Chiefs were more prepared, more imaginative and, simply, better coached.