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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Around the NFC West: Big 49ers win

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Taylor Price of 49ers.com says the Cardinals will have to wait at least one more week before clinching another NFC West title.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' defense was the key against Arizona even though Frank Gore enjoyed a strong rushing performance. Ratto: "This win had nothing to do with the offense. It didn't have all that much to do with the 49ers' still-flickering postseason hopes. It had to do with establishing again and perhaps for good that the 49ers excel when they defend well, and fail dismally when they don't."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle sizes up the task awaiting the 49ers. Crumpacker: "Ah, Philly, on a short week, on the road, against a team playing for its own division title. After that, the 49ers finish with seemingly winnable games against Detroit and St. Louis. But let the 49ers savor this one, for it represents the best game of the Singletary era, coming at a must-win time of the season against a division-leading rival needing to win to clinch a second straight title."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers president Jed York offered votes of confidence for coach Mike Singletary and general manager Scot McCloughan before kickoff Monday night. Maiocco: "In expressing his satisfaction with McCloughan's performance, York pointed out some rising stars from recent drafts."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat says the 49ers' dominance over Arizona doesn't make much sense. Cohn: "The 49ers can beat the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers beat the Cardinals in Arizona and then they beat the Cardinals in San Francisco. And they can beat them anywhere, any day of the week. This is a peculiar and funny fact because the Cardinals are better than the 49ers."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News offers more from York on the 49ers' direction.

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group welcomes back Gore to the 49ers' offense.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers focused on staying true to their identity.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic recounts the Cardinals' futility against San Francisco.

Also from Somers: Beanie Wells' fumble was the key play.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals lost dignity on Monday night. Bickley: "So what's the damage? In the end, the visitors lost a football game, an opportunity to clinch the division on enemy soil and a large measure of dignity. The latter hurts most, a night when the Cardinals squandered away all the goodwill accumulated in last week's victory over the Vikings. The offense was careless and sloppy, and Tim Hightower set the tone with another first-quarter fumble. The defense was emotionally unhinged, jumping offside on three of the first six plays. Meanwhile, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be embarrassed. The contact-shy cornerback allowed Jason Hill too much room on a second-down play late in the first half, allowing Hill to romp past the first-down marker before Rodgers-Cromartie even thought about pushing him out of bounds."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers postgame notes, including one about how much Arizona will miss Matt Ware if the safety cannot play for an extended period.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks will stick with Marcus Trufant at cornerback even though the veteran is struggling and probably not full strength following a back injury. Coach Jim Mora: "He's played well in this league. He's coming off a difficult back injury and certainly isn't playing up to his standards. But we've got to find ways to help him. Typically in the coverage we were in yesterday, the quarters coverage, that's a coverage he plays very well. I can think of three or four interceptions he had over the last couple years in that coverage. He just didn't play it well in that play. And against a guy like that, I mean, it's over right now."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says effort wasn't the Seahawks' problem Sunday, according to Mora. Mora: "I don't see that as being a problem. Now, consistency of execution? Absolutely an issue with our football team right now. But effort? No."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says there was no sugarcoating the Seahawks' performance against Houston. Mora: "Sometimes I walk in here on Mondays and say, 'Well, you know, it wasn’t as bad as it looked on the field.' You know, you saw some (good) things on film. I don’t feel quite that way today. I felt like the film was just about as bad as I thought it was yesterday watching the game in person."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams quarterback Keith Null wasn't fazed by his five-interception debut. Thomas: "For the final three games of this season, it's either Kyle Boller or Null at quarterback. That's because Marc Bulger is still on crutches three weeks after he was diagnosed with a fractured shin bone. Bulger underwent a followup MRI exam Friday. According to Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, the exam "showed that (the fracture) was healing, that the swelling was down. It's not completely healed. He still has a little pain there, so (doctors) want him to stay on the crutches."

Jeff Gordon of stlouistoday.com says the Rams should take this approach: "Shut down Steven Jackson until his back improves. Put Marc Bulger and Jason Smith on injured reserve. Continue auditioning younger players for 2010 roles. Take that daring attitude demonstrated on special teams and instill it on offense and defense, too. The Rams are likely to lose out either way, so why not push the surviving players to their creative limits? Come on guys, let’s have a little fun out there!"

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Kyle Boller will probably start for the Rams if he is physically able.

Also from Coats: no immediate word on Richie Incognito's fate.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes Spagnuolo as an eternal optimist. Burwell: "Despite every miserable loss in this, his rookie season as an NFL head coach, there are not enough acting classes in Hollywood to teach Spagnuolo to be this upbeat in the face of so many crushing defeats. But there is a reason for his optimism. He probably won't admit this, but Spagnuolo is a believer that what is happening in this 2009 season that keeps hurtling its way toward a 1-15 conclusion is the short-term price for long-term success."