Thursday, October 21, 2010
Around the NFC West: Front-running Rams
By Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are outscoring opponents 34-3 in first quarters this season after getting outscored 87-16 in first quarters last season. Sam Bradford's addition accounts for some of the difference, obviously. The Rams are also playing better defense. Their schedule is also more favorable. Last season, the Rams' home schedule featured games against Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner and Matt Schaub. Those quarterbacks were going to score points against just about anyone. Thomas: "The 34 points scored in the first quarter is sixth best in the NFL this season. The Rams' three points allowed is second best in the league, trailing only the New York Jets, who have yet to allow a first-quarter point. And the Rams' point differential of plus-31 in the opening quarter is third best in the league, exceeded only by New Orleans (plus-40) and Green Bay (plus-34)."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are getting better overall production from receiver Brandon Gibson.
Also from Coats: Danario Alexander's knee felt OK after practice.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at some of Bradford's more impressive stats, but also notes that opponents have sacked the rookie five times in the red zone.
Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Bradford's former Oklahoma teammate, Gerald McCoy, will be gunning for the quarterback when the Rams visit Tampa Bay. Bradford and McCoy remain friends. They spoke by phone this week. McCoy: "I'm going to kill him. If I can get to him, I'm going to kill him. We are definitely cool off the field. But on the field, I do not know him. He is No. 8 for the Rams, and that's all I know." The Bucs have only four sacks all season, three fewer than the Rams had against San Diego in Week 6.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Chris Long is the Rams' first defensive lineman since Bryce Fisher in 2004 to be named the NFC's defensive player of the week.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Long and James Hall have formed effective bookends for St. Louis.
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis quotes Hall on Long: "I'm happy for him because he's been working so hard this year and you can see him progressing week in and week out. And he's been so close to the quarterback--so to see him go out there and have two sacks, I was excited."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com expects 49ers center Eric Heitmann to miss at least four weeks with a neck injury. Maiocco: "If Heitmann's condition does not improve, the 49ers have the option of placing him on injured reserve to open a roster spot. Veteran Tony Wragge is the backup behind starting center David Baas. Prior to this season, Heitmann had missed just two games, due to a broken leg in 2006, since the 2004 season. Baas was an excused absence from today's practice because of a personal matter. The 49ers said Baas is expected back at practice Thursday, and it should not have an impact on his availability for Sunday's game."
Also from Maiocco: Patrick Willis plans to play the way he has always played, without adjusting for harsher discipline from the NFL for illegal hits.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers defenders. They're not excited about the new emphasis on stopping illegal hits. Willis: "I don't know, it's just crazy that somebody could cut your legs out like that in the open field and intentionally blow your knee out and you're done for the season (and) a concussion is what, two weeks, maybe three, yet they don't get fined for that or get in trouble for that."
Also from Barrows: 49ers president Jed York cannot guarantee a completion date for the team's proposed new stadium. Barrows: "Financing the stadium depends on a loan from the league and that the loan is contingent on a new collective bargaining agreement."
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Willis realizes he hasn't made as many big plays this season. Willis: "The first five weeks, I kind of let it get to me. Last week, I said, 'I'm just going to play.' The rest of the season, whatever happens -- big play or no play -- I just want to win and do everything I can to help my teammates win. You turn on the film, you see me going all out. To me, as long as I can put my head down at nighttime and know that I gave 100 percent, I'll be all right with that -- big play or no big play."
Also from Branch: Count Ted Ginn Jr. among those against increased fines for illegal hits.
More from Branch: Willis' thoughts on the increased fines. Willis: "It’s crazy. I mean, $75,000 for going out and hitting the guy? I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do, I thought as a defensive guy you’re supposed to hit and as an offensive guy you’re supposed to avoid and if your quarterback leads you right where the defender is, then you should take that up with the quarterback. If it’s ugly, just straight hands down leading with your head, that’s one thing. Or head butting or anything like that, but when you’re going for the tackle and, I don’t know, y’all saw it, so you make your own decision, but I’m just going to play football."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com passes along high praise for Larry Fitzgerald from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Carroll: "He has incredible catching ability. I don’t know if anybody can catch the ball better than him -- if anybody ever has. He has an incredible catching range. It doesn’t matter whether he almost sees the ball. The ball comes out of nowhere and he snatches it and he’s going. ... He’ll factor in and just break your heart. You can cover him and he still makes the play. You can double him and they’ll still go to him and he still makes the play. So we’ll show him due respect."
Also from Farnsworth: Lawyer Milloy takes pride in his NFL legacy.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, who met as incoming freshmen at Cal six years ago. O'Neil: "Lynch is from the Bay Area with dreadlocks that drape down almost to his shoulders and a running style that he refers to as Beast Mode. Forsett is from Florida by way of Texas, his hair cropped close. He's so religious that he operates closer to priest mode, posting a nightly scripture verse via his Twitter account. Lynch has a Technicolor personality. Forsett is so quiet there are times you don't know he's in the room. Yet they share a friendship that is strengthened by those differences."
Also from O'Neil: Cornerback Josh Pinkard is practicing for the first time this season.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks expect to see an aggressive Cardinals team visiting Seattle in Week 7.
Also from Williams: Even some offensive players don't like the NFL's harsher punishment for helmet-to-helmet hits. Tackle Sean Locklear: "It sucks. I mean, honestly, it’s almost a lose-lose situation for guys -– like, what do you do? I don’t think somebody’s out there intentionally trying to hit somebody in the head to try and hurt them. It’s part of football. It happens. But if you start fining guys that significant amount for the first time, that’s a lot of change (money). And that’s a big amount for a hit."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Milloy can barely walk for two days after games, but the 36-year-old safety doesn't let his teammates see him that way. Boling: "He will turn 37 on Nov. 14, the day the Seahawks play at Arizona. For a kid who grew up in tough circumstances in Tacoma, Milloy has fashioned an amazing career and built a strong personal reputation."
John Boyle of the Everett Herald links to the South Park episode featuring (briefly) a cartoon character resembling Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals had their full squad practicing coming out of the bye week. It's looking like inside linebacker Gerald Hayes will not play extensively, however. Somers: "Hayes is expected to make a gradual transition into the lineup. If he plays in Seattle on Sunday, it will be on a limited basis. Eventually, he could move back into his old job, starting strong inside linebacker. That would allow the Cardinals to move Paris Lenon to the weak position, and rookie Daryl Washington would become a reserve and situational player."
Also from Somers: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt says quarterbacks have it easier than tight ends when playing in noisy stadiums. Spoken like a former tight end.
More from Somers: Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter isn't happy about the NFL's new emphasis on punishment. Porter: "You are going to see a lot more points, a lot more guys scared to pull the trigger to make the big play. A lot of guys will start losing their jobs because now you're not making the tackles you're supposed to make. It's just going to get crazy, man. I expect something different happening this Sunday."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Fitzgerald loves playing at Qwest Field more than just about anywhere. Fitzgerald: "You definitely have that you-against-the-world feeling when you go on the field. You see the ‘No. 1’ (jersey-wearing) guy and the crazy guy above the tunnel calling your name. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s the 11 men in the huddle and no one else in the building is supporting you. I love that feeling."
Also from Urban: Hayes doesn't know how much he'll contribute to the Cardinals' defense Sunday. Hayes: "I know what I do and what I do well. I have to leave a lot of stuff up to the coaches. I’m going to continue to work on the things I need to work on so when I do get in there, I will know what I am doing and play at a high level."