Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Around the NFC West: Seattle regressing?
By Mike Sando
Brock Huard of 101ESPN Seattle says the Seahawks are regressing on multiple levels after showing promise earlier in the season. Huard: "Outside of Mike Williams, David Hawthorne and Ben Obomanu, who has really flourished and grown as this season has progressed?" Huard raises questions about Aaron Curry, Earl Thomas, John Carlson, Kelly Jennings, Marcus Trufant, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Lofa Tatupu and Matt Hasselbeck. Setting the right expectations for Seattle can be more difficult because the team improbably finds itself competing for a division title. The Seahawks need building-block players on both lines. They increasingly need an ascending quarterback. Hasselbeck ranks 27th among NFL passing leaders (minimum 14 attempts per game). He has a passer rating of 76.0 or lower in four of his last five seasons, counting this one.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says coach Pete Carroll isn't seeing the steady improvement he wants. Carroll: "I think we’re going back and forth. I don’t feel the consistency of growth that I wish we were -- particularly here at the end of the season, where everybody’s working hard, everybody is the recipient of playing together for so long. If you get your stuff right you should be playing better, better, better as you go along if you’re doing things right. And it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like we’ve gone back and forth."
Also from Farnsworth: a look at three positives and three negatives from the Seahawks' 40-21 defeat at San Francisco in Week 14.
More from Farnsworth: Deon Butler did not suffer a compound fracture of his right leg, but the injury was serious nonetheless. Carroll: "It was able to go right back together nicely. It’s a real intricate surgery, of course, but they were really pleased with the results of it."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times raises questions about the Seahawks, including one asking whether Carlson fits into the team's plans. O'Neil: "Seattle started the game with two tight ends on the field in San Francisco, and Carlson was not one of them. Chris Baker and Cameron Morrah were the top two alternatives, and not only did Carlson not catch a pass Sunday, but he didn't have a ball thrown to him in a game in which 10 different players caught passes for the Seahawks." Morrah is increasingly the tight end Seattle lines up as a receiver in its two-tight end packages.
Also from O'Neil: Carroll wrestles with the Seahawks' problems.
Christian Caple of seattlepi.com says Carroll used the word "disappoint" or a variation six times during his news conference Monday.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along Brian McIntyre's latest Seahawks personnel report. McIntyre: "Seattle’s six- and seven-defensive back packages did not fare well on Sunday. Aaron Curry’s sack came as a defensive tackle in 'dime', but on the other five snaps, Alex Smith went 5-for-5 for 131 yards and a touchdown. When Seattle was in 'Bandit', Smith completed two passes for 43 yards."
John Morgan of Field Gulls wonders to what degree Lynch is personally responsible for his struggles on the ground. I think Lynch does offer something of value, but as a role player. There's nothing particularly dynamic about how he runs. He runs with attitude and would be much more effective running behind a strong line.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic quotes Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt this way on quarterback John Skelton: "He did a lot of things rookie quarterbacks do as far as mistakes, play calls in the huddle that were incorrect and had to be changed. All those things are what you expect. We had a plan that was scaled down for him, but what I really liked was his demeanor and how he handled himself. They brought a lot of pressure and he was able to handle that and make some throws. There's potential there to grow into that position. That's an exciting part of it." Whisenhunt has appeared focused on that aspect of the quarterback position. He preferred Derek Anderson and Max Hall to Matt Leinart largely because he liked the way teammates responded to them.
Also from McManaman: Whisenhunt would not bite when asked about possibly playing for draft position. Every coach wants to win, of course. Also: Whisenhunt credits Beanie Wells for toughing it out Sunday despite a pretty severe illness.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along a telling quote from Whisenhunt: "Our defense played the way we all hoped it would play earlier in the year, and that allowed us to work through some things offensively until we could get it rolling." The Cardinals knew their offense would face growing pains amid a transition to a new quarterback. They expected their defense to help them remain competitive. Instead, the defense worsened, compounding the problems on offense.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at how Arizona is getting Skelton ready for another start. Urban: "It’s about making sure the quarterback can handle as much of the playbook as possible without overloading. Having a defense that can compensate helps – it’s no coincidence Skelton won on a day when the Cardinals’ defense dominated, allowing early offensive hiccups to pass without costing the Cardinals. That’s a big reason Roethlisberger was so good when he started out, because the Steelers’ defense could carry the team. Whisenhunt said the decision the last couple months to have Skelton meet one-on-one with quarterbacks coach Chris Miller or passing game coordinator Mike Miller has helped. Skelton stands at the dry-erase boards and is put through the paces, making reads, doing calls, explaining progressions."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is getting fired up as meaningful Rams football approaches. Miklasz: "I can't wait for Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Rams at The Edward Jones Dome. The atmosphere should be lively, fueled by playoff hopes, Christmas Week spirit, the KC-STL rivalry, and perhaps by the consumption of cold adult beverages in the urban tailgate settings around The Ed. And then the San Francisco 49ers come to town on Christmas weekend, with the 49ers and Rams clashing on Dec. 26." For weeks, the focus has been on a potentially pivotal Week 17 game between the Rams and Seahawks. That game could still prove decisive, but the next couple weeks are critical to the division as well.
Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' local TV ratings fell when the team fell behind against New Orleans. The Rams have helped the ratings by playing so many close games this season.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo isn't willing to talk about playoff possibilities. Spagnuolo: "What I have a hard time with is it's like we haven't lost any ground, but we want to gain some ground. That's where we're at. I think the team feels that way, too."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team hasn't started quickly of late. Wagoner: "One area that must improve used to be a strength. In the past three games, the Rams have been outscored 30-0 in the first quarter. This team built a reputation for starting fast early in the year and must reclaim that in the coming weeks."
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says Spagnuolo acknowledges that the game against Kansas City is "huge" for the Rams' hopes this season.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says it was clear Mike Singletary's mind was elsewhere during his news conference Monday. That was understandable given the short week.
Also from Maiocco: a player-by-player look at the 49ers against Seattle. On outside linebacker Travis LaBoy: "Entered at right outside linebacker for the second drive of the game, and he was credited with four tackles in the game. . . . Did a good job of outside contain, forcing Deon Butler back inside on first-quarter reverse. . . . Had some problems in coverage on back-to-back 15-yard passes on Seahawks' first-quarter TD drive. . . . Beat left tackle Russell Okung to the outside to sack Matt Hasselbeck, force fumble and recover it. The takeaway led to a 49ers touchdown."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' blowout victory against Seattle allowed them to rest some players in anticipation of playing San Diego on Thursday night.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com looks ahead to the 49ers' game against San Diego. Singletary: "You’re just trying to make sure that you have everything where it needs to be, making sure that your players are at that mental state of mind, and trying to figure out practice, trying to look at some of the injuries, even though they are day-to-day, trying to figure out how to manage those things, and at the same time, putting a game plan together. So that’s where my mind is."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat is among those noticing Singletary's more subdued demeanor in recent weeks, including Monday. Cohn: "Singletary was saying, I believe, the team was green and so was he. He had a lot to learn and, truth be told, he was unprepared for the start of the season and was overwhelmed by the five straight losses and the turmoil on his staff and the passionately negative reaction from the fans and media. He was admitting all that."
Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says it appears as though Singletary realizes it takes more than sheer willpower to win NFL games.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers are doing a better job anticipating what is coming from opponents. Lynch: "Now, it seems that the 49ers are no longer living on Singletary's wide-eyed emotion, but rather on a more sustainable calm."