Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Warner 1. Kurt Warner, Cardinals quarterback. Warner was not completely responsible for Arizona's meltdown against the Panthers, of course, but all six turnovers went on his tab and that's enough to drag down any quarterback's stock. At this point last season, Warner had 14 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 102.1 passer rating. He has 11 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 81.5 rating through seven games this season. The downfield passing game has all but disappeared from the Cardinals' offense. Warner keeps dropping back and waiting for wide receivers to come open, only to check down to running back Tim Hightower, who already has 39 receptions. The Cardinals have said they plan to force the deep ball a little more. They need to try something.
Houshmandzadeh 2. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seahawks wide receiver. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck dismissed his sideline "conversation" with Houshmandzadeh as a case of T.J. being T.J. This might be a good time for T.J. to be a Seahawk. Perceptions become reality in the NFL, particularly when a team is struggling, and perceptions of Houshmandzadeh aren't very positive right now. Would it be OK for every player on the team to throw a fit on the sideline when things do not go his way? If it's not OK for the rest of the team, what makes it OK for a newcomer who might be the second- or third-most dynamic receiving option on the team behind Nate Burleson and possibly John Carlson? Houshmandzadeh is on pace to catch 80 passes this season. That ought to be enough.
Wilson 3. Adrian Wilson, Cardinals safety. Arizona counts on its defensive leader to make strong plays against the run, but the Cardinals allowed 270 yards rushing -- at home against a team with a previously struggling quarterback. Wilson appeared out of position when the Panthers gashed the Cardinals' previously top-ranked run defense early in the game. He got caught in traffic when Jonathan Stewart scored on the Panthers' opening possession. He was a non-factor during DeAngelo Williams' 77-yard run a short time later, drifting toward the line of scrimmage and out of the play while Williams ran right through the spot he vacated. Was Wilson out of position on those plays? He wasn't talking after the game.
1. The Rams, one and all. Every team has a breaking point. The Rams might have been getting close to theirs after losing seven in a row to open the Steve Spagnuolo era. Spagnuolo rallied them behind closed doors Friday, challenging players to avoid letting down amid their frustrations. The team responded with its first victory of the season, a huge relief for the organization even though Spagnuolo has kept an even demeanor throughout. Taking an 0-8 record into the bye week would have made the mental side of the game much tougher for the Rams.
2. Greg Manusky, 49ers defensive coordinator. For a while last season, Manusky appeared to be the assistant coach most likely to replace Mike Nolan if the team decided to change head coaches. Mike Singletary got the call instead and that had to be tough for Manusky, who outranked Singletary on Nolan's staff. Manusky's defense held Peyton Manning without a touchdown pass for the first time all season. The secondary has played better than expected. The 49ers rank only 20th in yards allowed per game, but their front seven has punished top quarterbacks such as Manning, Warner, Hasselbeck and Brett Favre. The 49ers rank second in rushing yards allowed per game and first in yards rushing allowed per carry.
Stephens-Howling 3. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals running back. The Cardinals' offensive staff has continually sought ways to involve the mercurial Stephens-Howling in the offense, sometimes at the expense of continuity (at least in my view). The payoff came Sunday when Warner found Stephens-Howling out of the backfield for a 14-yard touchdown reception. The Cardinals could use a shifty back for their four-receiver offense after letting J.J. Arrington depart after last season. Stephens-Howling showed he might be able to fill some of that void. He also averaged 31.5 yards per kickoff return, with a 53-yarder that put the offense in position to rally with 11:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.