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Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Around the NFC West: 'That's on me'

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Mike Singletary went out of his way to accept blame for the team's 21-0 defeat to the Bucs and 3-7 record this season. "That's on me," the coach kept saying. Based on the feedback I've been receiving from 49ers fans, they weren't having any difficulties assigning blame following the 49ers' latest defeat. They've been blaming Singletary for weeks, and rightfully so. Even if the 49ers' talent was overrated, it's tough to say Singletary and his staff have gotten enough from it. Having the right quarterback masks problems, of course. The teams leading the NFC West have gotten the most consistent quarterback play. When quarterbacks underachieve, teams tend to unravel. They become impossible to trust. Seemingly safe expectations become unreliable.

Also from White: The 49ers don't plan changes to their offensive line despite a rough outing against the Bucs. This team has needed a veteran presence at right guard to help rookie right tackle Anthony Davis come along. Singletary's insistence upon sticking with a younger player, Chilo Rachal, doesn't make sense to me. Every other team in the division has plugged in veteran guards next to young tackles. It just makes sense, especially if younger guards are struggling.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Fox analyst Kurt Warner foreshadowed Troy Smith's struggles for the 49ers against Tampa Bay. Warner before the game: "I think to be an every-down quarterback and to play successfully year after year, you're going to have to play inside the pocket," Warner said. "You're going to have to see the field, you're going to have to make those decisions, and those are things that I don't know if they've asked him to do yet."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Singletary's unwillingness to change reflects bad coaching.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson defended his game plan against Tampa Bay, instead blaming execution issues and suggesting the team was hamstrung because Troy Smith had not gone to camp with the team. Johnson: "We didn't execute, but they didn't do anything to really stop what we had done, other than they took away the vertical [passes]. At the end of the day, you still have to run-block, you still have to catch, you still have to throw, and you still have to do the small details to execute a given play each week. The team that executes the best is usually the team that wins. Last week, the St. Louis Rams didn't execute as well as we did on offense and we won the game. We came out yesterday and didn't play well. That falls on me. I take responsibility for that. But we'll get it corrected and move forward and go from there."

Also from Maiocco: highlights from Singletary's news conference, including news that Troy Smith would remain the starting quarterback ahead of Alex Smith.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Singletary changed catchphrases in a 24-hour period. Branch: "Reading, at times, from handwritten notes on a sheet of white paper, Singletary acknowledged the Niners weren't properly prepared for a game in which they entered favored by three points and exited with their first home shutout since 1977, when Singletary, 52, was a freshman at Baylor."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says penalties forced the Cardinals into too many unmanageable down-and-distance situations against Kansas City. Also: "It was obvious that lineman Darnell Dockett is not himself. He played after missing last week because of a shoulder stinger but was not a factor. Safety Adrian Wilson appeared to blitz more than he has in recent weeks, and cornerback Michael Adams, playing in place of the injured Greg Toler, seemed to hold up well."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals lost linebacker Will Davis to a season-ending leg injury. Boivin: "Davis started Sunday against Kansas City in place of Clark Haggans, who has missed three of the past four games with a groin injury. (Coach Ken) Whisenhunt believes Haggans will be available for the San Francisco game Monday night and is comfortable with reserve O'Brien Schofield seeing more time." Injuries have affected the Cardinals more this season than in recent seasons. The team does hope to have LaRod Stephens-Howling back against the 49ers on Monday night.

Also from Boivin: Derek Anderson and other Cardinals players need to improve their body language. Boivin: "Botched passes prompt an angry grimace. Frustrations trigger questionable decisions, like throwing the ball to the sidelines Sunday and landing an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. This is not the behavior of a rally-the-troops kind of guy. Teammates, consciously or not, look to him for a signal." Having some success would change body language immediately. The Cardinals haven't been good enough to succeed.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Whisenhunt thinks the team's struggles are not eroding what the organization has built in recent seasons. Whisenhunt: "I don’t think you can look at our team over the last two years and what we have done in the playoffs and be ashamed about anything with that or feel like we’ve lost anything from that. If we have to go through some tough times to get back to that point, that's what we have to do." Every team is different and this one is vastly different from its recent predecessors. The Cardinals turned over more of their roster than nearly every other team did during the offseason.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are not sure when receiver Mike Williams will return from the foot injury he suffered Sunday. According to coach Pete Carroll, Williams suffered the injury later in the game, not when the Saints appeared to tackle him awkwardly following an early 68-yard reception. Carroll: "He was running down the field and felt something pop. It's very unusual. They know exactly what it is. I can't explain it to you, and they've never seen it before. So it's an unusual thing that he's got. Something in the bottom of his foot." Meanwhile, left guard Chester Pitts suffered an ankle injury and might not play this week. I noticed Pitts limping badly into the locker room at halftime and figured his surgically repaired knee was the problem. Recovering from the ankle injury should allow Pitts' knee to get some rest.

Also from O'Neil: Carroll is most concerned with issues along the Seahawks' defensive front. Carroll has acknowledged that the Seahawks are having a hard time making up for what they lost when Red Bryant landed on injured reserve. The Seahawks built their run defense around Bryant, essentially creating a position for him.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks could remain without starting nose tackle Colin Cole for a couple more weeks.

Also from Boling: Seattle leads the NFC West despite quite a few significant injuries.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold expects to play Sunday despite aggravating a shoulder injury. The team initially thought Saffold had suffered damage to his rotator cuff. Saffold: "Pretty much the same thing, just retweaked it during the game. I got caught in a bad position when I was pass blocking. It was really hurting after that. I knew I had to come out."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are lucky to remain in the NFC West race. Burwell: "While no one seems to be able to win the NFC West, with six games remaining, no one seems to be able to lose it, either. And that means that for the first time in ages, the Rams are still playing meaningful football games this late in the season. Not since 2006 when the Rams finished 8-8, only a game out of first place, have they pushed and shoved their way into November with a division title still at stake."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on every team in the NFC West. Miklasz on the Rams: "The Rams have lost two in a row, now must play the next three games on the road, where the franchise is 1-16 since Oct. 26, 2008. In the last two games the Rams defense has been roasted by a mediocre quarterback (Troy Smith) and a very good quarterback (Matt Ryan) in allowing a total of 609 yards passing and a rating of 108.4."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Falcons' ability to get pressure up the middle disrupted the shovel pass Atlanta intercepted.

Also from Wagoner: Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo wasn't interested in watching Sunday night football even though his former teams were playing.