The Film Don't Lie: 49ers

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the San Francisco 49ers must fix:

The 49ers enter their bye week licking their wounds, physical and mental, after Sunday night's 42-17 thumping at the Denver Broncos.

The Niners receivers should spend their time off standing in front of a JUGS passing machine, catching ball after ball after ball. Or track down Lester Hayes or Fred Biletnikoff across the bay and borrow some old-school Stickum in time for their next game, Nov. 2 against the St. Louis Rams at Levi's Stadium.

Of course, Stickum is now illegal, but the 49ers' pass-catchers were dropping passes nonetheless.

Especially receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. The trio combined for four drops, per Pro Football Focus, with Crabtree clanging two.

Particularly galling was the normally sure-handed Boldin, quarterback Colin Kaepernick's Mr. Dependable, dropping one in the end zone that hit him in the hands on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line midway through the second quarter.

If Boldin holds on to the ball, the 49ers creep to within 14-7. Instead, they had to settle for a 22-yard Phil Dawson field goal, and the rout was on.

Asked specifically about the drops after the game, coach Jim Harbaugh evaded the question.

"The Broncos played a great game," Harbaugh said. "They really were good and better at every phase and played a heck of a ballgame."

And if you're scratching your head over that particular answer to that specific of a question, imagine Harbaugh's reaction watching his receivers drop catchable passes.

The Film Don't Lie: Cardinals

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the Cardinals must fix:

Sitting very close to the bottom of the league in total sacks with seven -- 12 fewer than at this point last season -- the Arizona Cardinals are still struggling to find a solution to their foundering pass rush. The lack of a presence inside the pocket continued Sunday with just one sack against the Raiders. If nothing changes against Philadelphia this weekend, Arizona may be in for its second loss of the season.

Against the Raiders, the Cardinals didn’t seem to have much of an issue getting off the line of scrimmage and putting some heat on rookie quarterback Derek Carr. It was more that the rush fizzled. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals finished their 24-13 win with 13 hurries but no quarterback hits besides the sack by Larry Foote.

Arizona sent five or more pass-rushers on seven dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

And when the Cardinals did, they either missed Carr or he stepped up in the pocket to avoid any pressure and contact.

A review of the game film showed Carr having room to easily step up. When Arizona sent seven pass-rushers on a third-and-7 in the second quarter, the middle was open for Carr to just move up in the pocket and hit Mychal Rivera for an 18-yard pass.

As they've been all season, the Cardinals seemed to be a half step slow on the pass rush. There were times when Tommy Kelly got through, but Carr released the ball just before he was hit.

Arizona will be able to fix its pass rush by clogging the middle gaps and not allowing quarterbacks to step up and forcing them outside. The also need to be quicker with their hands when offensive linemen are moving them away from the pocket or developing better moves to elude tackles off the edge such as what Sam Acho did when he knocked down a Carr pass in the first quarter when Arizona rushed six.

The Film Don’t Lie: Seahawks

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the Seattle Seahawks must fix:

This team is known for its success on special teams, but there was nothing special about the Seahawks getting faked out of their socks on Sunday at St. Louis, including a 90-yard punt return for a TD by Stedman Bailey.

Now the Seahawks face one of the top punt returners in the league in Philly Brown of the Carolina Panthers, who averages 11.4 yards per return and has a 79-yard TD this season.

But this is all about not being outsmarted. Bailey's return was a trick, with the Rams coaxing all the Seattle defenders to go to the wrong side of the field because that’s where the Rams' blockers went.

And the Seahawks were fooled again on one of the key plays of the game, a fake punt by the Rams on a fourth-and-3 at their own 18-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Rams punter Johnny Hekker threw to a wide-open Benjamin Cunningham in the left flat for an 18-yard gain.

The good news for the Seahawks is these mistakes are easily fixable by being more aware and expecting the unexpected. The blame goes to the Seattle coaches on the fake punt, not realizing that a 1-4 team with nothing to lose would be willing to gamble to try to get a second win.

And the odds of a similar magic trick on a punt return working again and fooling any team, much less the Seahawks, are more remote than Percy Harvin getting traded for a sixth-round draft pick.

The Film Don't Lie: Rams

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
11:00
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A weekly look at what the St. Louis Rams must fix:

As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for this week's game against the Rams, you'll have to excuse them if they salivate watching the Rams try to defend running plays outside the tackles. The Rams currently sit 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game but a closer look reveals they actually haven't been all that bad when it comes to slowing down the run, so long as it's coming up the middle.

The Chiefs' tape review will reveal a Rams defense capable of slowing top running backs around the league but getting gashed by secondary ball carriers who can do their damage on the perimeter.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is the latest to exploit the Rams on the outside. For the year, the Rams have allowed 48 carries for 391 yards outside the tackles, an average of 8.15 yards per attempt, which ranks last in the league. The Rams have been solid inside, holding opponents to 485 yards on 127 carries, an average of 3.82 yards per attempt, which ranks 10th in the NFL.

Kansas City will put those numbers to the test this week, as the Chiefs rank fourth in the NFL on runs outside the tackles with an average of 5.96 yards per attempt.

One possible solution could be the pending return of cornerback Trumaine Johnson from a knee injury. Johnson is the Rams' biggest and most physical corner and his presence would help set the edge better. Beyond that, the Rams must get more production from linebacker Alec Ogletree, who has disappointed so far in 2014.
The Seattle Seahawks had a rough few days on the injury front, including fullback Derrick Coleman breaking his foot in warm-up drills Sunday at St. Louis. But several key players could return this week.

Starting cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has a strained calf, could be back, along with backup cornerback Tharold Simon, who suffered a sprained ankle in St. Louis is his first NFL start.

Unger
"It blew up, but it's not a bad sprain," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Simon. "He's popping around pretty good [Monday], so he has a chance, and Maxey has a chance to get back, too. We'll see."

Carroll also said starting center Max Unger, who has missed the last two games with a foot injury, could return, but starting tight end Zach Miller (ankle surgery) still is out.

"Max is working at it," Carroll said. "He's doing some stuff this week and we'll see as the week goes along. Zach is a little farther away. He's still in a boot right now, so he's not that close yet."

Carroll expects back-up tight end Luke Willson to return after suffering a groin strain in practice last Wednesday and missing Sunday's game.

"He almost made it back [for the Rams game]," Carroll said. "But we felt like it was better to hold him out with the chance to be back fully this week."

Carroll said back-up defensive tackle Jordan Hill who missed Sunday's game with a sprained ankle, will practice on Wednesday. But middle linebacker Bobby Wagner still is out. He is wearing a cast over a turf toe injury.

"It's going to be a while," Carroll said of Wagner's status.

Jeremy Lane, Seattle's starting nickel cornerback who was placed on injured reserve/designated to return at the start of the season with a groin injury, will return to practice this week. But Lane can't come off IR until the New York Giants game on Nov. 9.

The one area where the Seahawks may need to make a roster move is at fullback since Coleman is the only true fullback on the roster and will be out at least six weeks. Running back Robert Turbin filled in a fullback Sunday.

Carroll was asked if former Seattle fullback Michael Robinson was an option. When the Seahawks didn't re-sign him after last season, Robinson retired and now works as an analyst for the NFL Network.

"He's doing a really good job in the media right now and he's quite busy," Carroll said of Robinson. "He seems to be very well-grooved in his business."
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seemed just as perplexed as general manager Trent Baalke by talk that outside linebacker Aldon Smith’s nine-game suspension could be reduced.

Harbaugh
Smith
“I saw that report, and I don’t know anything about it,” Harbaugh said Monday in his weekly media conference.

ProFootballTalk reported before Sunday night’s 42-17 Niners loss to the Denver Broncos that Smith could return a game or two early. He has already missed seven games and the 49ers are entering their bye week playing playing host to the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 2.

Smith was hit by the league with the suspension, which would keep him out through the team’s Nov. 9 game at the New Orleans Saints, “for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse and the league's Personal Conduct Policy.”

The suspension broke down with four games for violations of the league’substance abuse policy, five games for violations of the Personal Conduct Policy.

Still, Smith has been allowed to work out at the team’s Santa Clara, California, facility as part of his suspension.

Harbaugh was asked if Smith had kept his nose clean and had been fulfilling his promises to the team.

“Very well,” Harbaugh said. “Settling his community service and when he’s around the facility, very well.”

An incredulous Baakle told reporters on press row Sunday night he knew nothing of the report.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Darnell Dockett's mocking of Oakland's winless 0-6 record late in Sunday's game went viral quickly after the Cardinals won, 24-13.

But Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arian wasn't a fan of Dockett's antics.

"It won't happen again," Arians said Monday afternoon.

Dockett told ESPN.com he hasn't been fined by the team for the whiteboard message.

Here's a photo of the sign taken by a Cardinals fan in Oakland:



Recapping the rest of Arians' Monday news conference:
  • Arians said there's no structural damage to Andre Ellington's ribs. The running back is "just sore."
  • There's a possibility defensive end Calais Campbell could return to practice this week. He's been out with a strained MCL since suffering the injury against Denver in Week 5.
  • Arians said safety Rashad Johnson is being evaluated for a patellar tendon but it could be severe tendinitis.
  • Rookie tight end Troy Niklas is doubtful for the Eagles game, Arians said.
  • Second-year running back Stepfan Taylor lost weight to get quicker but lost some power at the same time, Arians said.
  • Arians explained how the Cardinals could be 31st about the pass but No. 1 against the run: "They can't run. They're going to throw." When he was asked if Arizona could win with the second-worst pass defense, Arians said "We have so far."
  • Arians said he won't push Ellington to practice on Wednesdays even though it's hindering the timing in Arizona's pass game: "He can't if he can't hardly walk."
  • Arians on the fake punts the St. Louis Rams pulled off against Seattle: "That was some big cojones as Good (offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin) would say."
The night belonged to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who established a record for most touchdown passes in a career in Denver’s 42-17 rout of the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night.

But where did the game truly get away from the Niners, whose 42 points allowed are tied for their most under fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh?

Look no further than their offensive line, which was more makeshift line than front line by the time the game ended.

Consider that the 49ers were already without left guard Mike Iupati, who suffered a concussion six days earlier, and Anthony Davis was making just his second start of the season at right tackle thanks to injury.

The Niners then lost center Daniel Kilgore to a potentially season-ending broken left ankle/leg and his backup, undrafted rookie Dillon Farrell, rolled an ankle.

Colin Kaepernick was sacked a season-high six times and the resultant grades for offensive linemen were ugly.

Per Pro Football Focus, left tackle Joe Staley allowed three sacks and Joe Looney, who started at left guard in place of Iupati, surrendered six quarterback pressures and had a minus-5.7 grade.

Davis, who dealt with Von Miller, had an overall grade of minus-3.8 while right guard Alex Boone had his first positive grade as a starter this season at plus-3.8.

And when you look at how the 49ers attempted to attack the Broncos, PFF says they did not attempt one rushing play outside of Davis at right tackle while only using two-tight end personnel on 13.3 percent (10 of 75) of their plays, the same percentage as when they had two running backs on the field.

The bye week comes at a perfect time for the heart of the Niners’ offense -- the O-line -- to try and get right … and healthy.

Rams keep it clean on way to win

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For all that goes into every game in the NFL on a weekly basis, there are always a few small things that can be done to greatly influence the outcome.

Those small things -- penalties and turnovers -- become amplified if a team doesn't perform up to par in those areas. The St. Louis Rams know all about the effect of failing in the small details, losing four of their first five games in part because of their continued failings there.

So it was no coincidence Sunday when the Rams pulled out a 28-26 victory against the Seattle Seahawks that they finally found a way not to make the continued critical errors that have cost them games in the first part of the season.

“Well, yeah, as long as we're not hurting ourselves and creating negative field position and things like that, we’re OK," coach Jeff Fisher said.

What the Rams offered Sunday was a surprising victory on many levels, including a closer examination of the details.

The Rams entered Sunday's game 20th in the league in penalties (43) and 28th in penalty yards (425). That trend has plagued them since Fisher's arrival in St. Louis in 2012, as they were the most penalized team in the league over the past two years.

After receiver Brian Quick appeared to throw a punch at Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon early in Sunday's game to draw a 15-yard penalty deep in Seattle territory, it appeared the Rams were on their way to another sloppy, penalty-plagued performance.

But the Rams found a way to course correct, drawing just one more penalty the rest of the day, and even that was a delay of game penalty the team took on purpose. Seattle, meanwhile, drew costly penalty after costly penalty on its way to 10 flags for 89 yards. The plus-69-yard penalty margin was the Rams' first positive margin of the season and their best margin of the Fisher era in St. Louis.

Beyond that, the Rams did not turn the ball over for the first time in a game this season and did not allow a sack for just the second time in 2014. They even added three sacks of their own on defense and consistently generated pressure on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

There's nothing fancy about any of those numbers, but they're certainly part of a recipe for success -- a recipe the Rams know they must duplicate if they're going to build on Sunday's win.

“I think that’s how you win games in the NFL," quarterback Austin Davis said. "I think it’s something that we need to watch and figure out how to repeat week to week. The turnovers and the penalties and some of those things have been what’s holding us back. We feel like we’re a good team and keep progressing, but those things have really plagued us. We found a way to play a clean game tonight, and it gave us a chance to win and we ultimately pulled it out.”
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DENVER -- Peyton Manning put on an absolute clinic Sunday night in the Denver Broncos' 42-17 beatdown of the San Francisco 49ers.

Sure, he set a new NFL record for career touchdown passes with Nos. 507, 508, 509 and 510, and he also had as many TD passes against the 49ers as he did incompletions -- four -- in completing 22 of 26 passes for 318 yards and a passer rating of 157.2.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Jack DempseyIf you're keeping score, Colin Kaepernick is just 468 touchdown passes behind Peyton Manning on the all-time list. But Kaepernick would do well to learn from Manning's record-breaking night.
But perhaps the most important thing he accomplished on his record-setting night, at least as far as the 49ers are concerned, was setting an example for Colin Kaepernick to follow in his nascent career.

No doubt, they are two different quarterbacks with polar-opposite skill sets. But Kaepernick had a front-row seat to, well, the greatness that is Manning when he is firing on all cylinders.

That greatness includes touch passes, reading defenses and calling audibles in and out of plays depending upon what the defense shows him at the line.

"He's a great player," Kaepernick said. "He's able to put up a lot of points. He's proven that. We knew we were going to have to score points regardless."

Kaepernick actually had more passing yards than Manning at halftime, though the 49ers trailed 21-10 at intermission. And Kaepernick, who is only 468 touchdown passes behind Manning, flashed by leading the 49ers 80 yards in seven plays with no timeouts to close out that first half.

His 4-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with 11 seconds remaining in the half gave him a touchdown pass in 14 straight games, the third-longest such streak in franchise history behind Steve Young (17 games, from Oct. 9, 1994, through Oct. 15, 1995) and Jeff Garcia (15, from Dec. 3, 2000, through Dec. 2, 2001).

But with the 49ers playing catch-up and Kaepernick needing to pass, the Broncos merely pinned their ears back and dominated the Niners' decimated offensive line. Kaepernick was sacked a season-high six times and he passed for only 74 yards in the second half to finish with 263 yards on 24-of-39 passing with a touchdown and an interception.

Still, having a front-row seat to history should allow Kaepernick to glean something from Manning going forward, no? Well, so long as Kaepernick wants it.

It sounds like he does.

"He's a very smart player," Kaepernick said. "He knows where he wants to go with the ball, how he wants to attack different defenses."

So, you could add that your arsenal, your QB bag o' tricks, so to speak?

"Very much," Kaepernick said.

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh is not one to compare players, but on this night, the former quarterback seemed in awe of Manning. (A bit of trivia: The last QB to start a game for the Indianapolis Colts before Manning was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft? Harbaugh.)

"I'm sure there are some things [he can glean from Manning]," Harbaugh said. "He's one of the greats, and that certainly was on display tonight."

And then some.

"You're playing against a coordinator when you're out there," 49ers free safety Eric Reid said.

Whatever lessons Kaepernick took home from Denver will have to wait for a while. The only way he will see Manning this up close and personal again would be if the 49ers and Broncos meet in the Super Bowl.

"I hope we do," Kaepernick said.

He's not the only one who feels that way in the 49ers' locker room.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos:
    Reid
  • The 49ers’ top two centers entering the game both left with injuries. Starter Daniel Kilgore suffered what coach Jim Harbaugh said “might be a break” in his lower left leg while backup Dillon Farrell, who limped off the field after replacing Kilgore, was seen walking around without a noticeable limp.
  • It was a stunned locker room, one that was trying to process how efficiently Peyton Manning dissected the 49ers' defense. “You’re playing against a coordinator out there,” free safety Eric Reid said of Manning.
  • The 49ers are beat up, both emotionally and physically after being run over by the Broncos. So, can the bye week come at a better time? “This is perfect timing,” linebacker Ahmad Brooks said.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- When Arizona Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer woke up Sunday morning, he knew his return to the O.co Coliseum wouldn’t be just another game.

“It was kind of nostalgic -- more than I thought would even hit me being back,” the former Raiders third-round draft pick said. “Coming out pregame and running around back on the field, being back in the Coliseum and all the familiar things coming back from the last four years, it’s a lot of emotion.

“I knew it was going to be a special game.”

Leaving Oakland with a 24-13 win made it even more special.

Veldheer was one of three former Raiders on the field for Arizona. A lot was made last week about quarterback Carson Palmer’s return, but defensive tackle Tommy Kelly played the first nine years of his career with the Raiders.

He said he wanted to get a win for Palmer, who played half of 2011 and all of 2012 with Oakland before a trade landed him in Arizona, but Kelly wanted the win for himself.

“As a football player, I learned a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of love for this city and I wish the team nothing but the best. But on the football field, it’s not anything personal. It’s business. We just wanted to go out there, execute and win.”

While Kelly didn’t talk to any of his former Raiders teammates on the field -- “They kind of leave me alone. They know how I am,” he said -- he discussed playing a former team with his new head coach, Bruce Arians.

“You can see the smiles on their faces all week and [the] energy they brought to practice and meetings,” Arians said. “It was special for them, especially Tommy Kelly.”

Palmer and Kelly left the Raiders in 2013, and Veldheer in 2014. Veldheer, who was drafted by Oakland in 2010, returned with a chip on his shoulder because of how his departure went down.

“It was a big win for both of us,” Veldheer said.

“It meant a ton,” he added.

Palmer, who completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and his first interception of the season, downplayed having a chip on his shoulder. He did, however, make sure to get a box of favorite sandwiches delivered to the locker room after the game. He also talked about seeing his former Oakland teammates still on the roster.

“It was a great environment to play in,” Palmer said. “This place is awesome. It was great to play [here] when you’re wearing silver and black and it’s a fun place to play as an opponent. Great to get a win.”
videoOAKLAND, Calif. -- The way this season has gone for the Arizona Cardinals, coach Bruce Arians didn’t think Andre Ellington was coming back out of that locker room.

Ellington went in early, with a few seconds left in the second quarter to get his bruised ribs examined. It was going to be, in Arians' mind, another injury to add to the Cardinals’ weekly list report that seemingly grows by the day.

Ellington didn’t quell Arians’ concerns when the Cardinals returned to the field for the second half kickoff without him. By then, Arians was rewriting the game plan for Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes to carry Ellington’s load in the second half. But several minutes into the third quarter, Ellington jogged back on to the field, around the Raiderettes, around the end zone, and stood next to Arians.

“Then he tapped me on the back and said he was ready to go,” Arians said. “I said, ‘Oh good. I’m glad you made it.’”

Glad may be the understatement of the month.

Ellington was Arizona’s workhorse in Sunday’s 24-13 victory against winless Oakland, extending the Cardinals’ lead in the NFC West another week. Ellington finished with a career-high 30 touches for 160 total yards, which included a career-high 24 rushes for 88 yards while tying a career-high six receptions for 72 yards.

But more importantly, he led the revival of a running game that’s been weeks in the making.

“We want to come out every week and establish a run game,” Ellington said. “Coach challenged us this week, said we have to run the football better. Last week we didn’t run it well.”

After Ellington returned, Arians gave his featured back one play that first drive of the second half -- a pass from Carson Palmer, which Ellington dropped. But when Arizona took over following a field goal by Oakland to make the game 14-13 midway through the third quarter, Arians gave the ball back to Ellington.

And didn’t stop.

Ellington was responsible for 76 of the 80 yards on Arizona’s next drive -- 40 on the ground, 16 in the air and 20 through a defensive pass interference he drew. After doing all that work, he subbed himself out after getting winded and let Taylor get the glory. Taylor, who had 40 yards on 12 carries -- twice as many as his season total before Oakland -- scored on a four-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game.

“He earned it during the week,” Ellington said. “When I’m sitting resting, he’s out there working. My idea was just to get some fresh legs out there and we got the touchdown.”

Since he injured his left foot the week before the opener, Ellington hasn’t been practicing Wednesdays. It’s caused him to struggle with his wind early in games but he eventually catches his breath. The gauntlet of plays that Arians put Ellington through Sunday had been set since OTAs but Ellington hasn’t had many opportunities to practice them.

Arizona hadn’t cracked 100 yards rushing since Week 2 in New York, but if there was a game to do it, it was against the Raiders' 31st-ranked rushing defense. The Cardinals knew they had specific areas to focus on, and Sunday was an example of what happens when their minor corrections aremade.

“It’s something that we always knew we had,” said fullback Robert Hughes. “We were there the few past games but it’s always one block here, one block there. Today, we seemed to be able to get in more of a rhythm in the run game, but we got to definitely continue to work on it some more cause there’s big plays there we need to get out and get those toes big plays.”
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ST. LOUIS -- After reviewing the film from last week's loss to the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis acknowledged he didn't do a good enough job of taking what the defense gives him.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, Davis vowed to force the ball down the field less and take advantage of whatever the Seahawks were willing to cede. Late in the Rams' surprising 28-26 victory, Davis had done just that, almost to a fault.

[+] EnlargeAustin Davis
Michael B. Thomas/Getty ImagesQB Austin Davis had a career day on Sunday, leading the 2-4 Rams to a key division win against Seattle.
In the first three quarters, Davis completed 13-of-14 for 77 yards, an average of just 5.9 yards per completion. But as Seattle mounted a late comeback and put itself in position to win the game, Davis suddenly needed to come up big. He hadn't been able to in the past three weeks after leading a late victory in his first start against Tampa Bay. But he found a way to lead an impressive 80-yard drive to give the Rams the winning points.

On that drive, Davis completed 4-of-5 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown to tight end Lance Kendricks. None of those throws were bigger than a 30-yarder to receiver Chris Givens on third-and-6 at Seattle's 44.

"We thought we'd get man-to-man coverage," Davis said. "When they need a play, they trust their guys to cover man-to-man. Chris, with his speed, just ran across the field. I trusted it and obviously, we worked the play all week, and when we needed it, he made a big play. That's how you win games. You've got to make big plays when the game is on the line. You're going to have a chance to go down and win the game at the end or not. Today, we did it.”

Minutes later, Davis offered another big play when he evaded Seattle's pass rush on second-and-12 and somehow shoveled a pass to tight end Jared Cook for a 9-yard gain to put the Rams in position for the fake punt that helped seal the victory.

For the day, Davis was 18-of-21 for 152 yards and two touchdowns for a rating of 128.6. That completion percentage plus punter Johnny Hekker's completion on one attempt left the Rams converting 86.3 percent of their pass attempts, the highest allowed by the Seahawks in franchise history. The quarterback rating is the highest of Davis' young career.

The key to that success? Effectively using the middle of the field. Davis majored in risk management Sunday, throwing his 21 passes an average of just 5.5 yards down the field with 18 of those attempts coming in the middle of the field. That was a logical move considering Seattle is 20th in the league in completion percentage allowed over the middle the past two seasons and star cornerback Richard Sherman usually lurks on the outside.

It also allowed Davis to come up with big plays such as the ones to Givens. He attempted just four passes more than 10 yards down the field Sunday but he completed all of them.

Most important, Davis had no turnovers, eliminating the costly plays that have helped beat the Rams in recent weeks.

"You can't ask for more out of a guy who went from third string to now starting quarterback and playing great ball," defensive end Robert Quinn said. "We've got to be consistent week in and week out and prepare for teams and finish games."
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals' 24-13 victory against the Oakland Raiders:

Veldheer reminisces: Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer said returning to Oakland on Sunday was “kind of nostalgic” for him. He was drafted by the Raiders in 2010 and returning for the first time after spending four years in Oakland was harder on him than he expected it to be.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
No scoreboard watching for Fitz: After the Cardinals' game, when wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was told that Seattle had lost to St. Louis during the early games Sunday, he was legitimately surprised. He didn’t know the score of the game before Arizona took the field in Oakland.

Sack dance honors Bay Area: After Larry Foote’s sack in the second quarter, the veteran linebacker broke out into a sack dance that he named the “Tupac Dance.”

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