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Thursday, October 6, 2011
Chat wrap: Complaints on play-calling

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The latest NFC West chat moved up and down the field without much resistance. Thanks for those who made the key plays.

The Seattle Seahawks' defense, the St. Louis Rams' personnel approach, the San Francisco 49ers' linebackers and the Arizona Cardinals' play-calling headlined this chat.

Let's hit some highlights:
Gareth from Seattle likes what he sees from the Seahawks' defense and thinks it sometimes appears one or two players away from becoming elite. He's heard calls for an upgrade at cornerback but thinks an elite linebacker would help more.

Mike Sando: Adding another strong pass-rusher to help Chris Clemons would help the defense more than adding any other player. After that, it would be a cornerback, but they might be "adding" a good one later in the season as Walter Thurmond gets healthier and up to speed. The team thinks Thurmond has a chance to become a No. 1-type corner.

Paul from Albany, Ore., is a frustrated Rams fan wondering whether the team should have done more to upgrade its depth. He thinks the Colts look better without Peyton Manning than the Rams look after losing players of far less importance.

Mike Sando: Your frustrations are legitimate because the offensive line and defensive front seven have failed to meet expectations even though both have been reasonably healthy this season. Those two areas should have sustained the team better and guarded against blowout defeats. Instead, those areas have fallen short, magnifying the impact legitimate injuries have had on the team. Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola were two of the players the Rams could least afford to lose. The team did a good job adding depth behind Jackson, and a horrible job adding depth behind Amendola. There was no fallback plan at wide receiver if something happened to Amendola. The injuries to the secondary are just unfortunate. Take away the top three corners from any defense and there will be serious coverage issues. There is not a ton more the team could have done at that position.

Jeff from Hermosa Beach, Calif., asks whether Patrick Willis has taken a step backward or if the San Francisco 49ers' other linebackers are playing that much better around him.

Mike Sando: I've had the same question come to mind and I'm not sure. NaVorro Bowman looks really, really good. There was a play in the Philly game where Willis chased Vick toward the sideline and didn't get there in time. There was also a play when Bowman chased Vick and got him in the open field. These were different plays, but I also could not help notice Bowman sometimes outshining his more accomplished teammate. It's a great development for the 49ers. It's not like Willis is playing poorly. I wouldn't even say he has taken a step back at this point. It's just a situation to monitor.

Phil from Connecticut questions the Arizona Cardinals' play calling against the New York Giants. By his count, the Cardinals had the lead twice with 5-6 minutes remaining, only to call three pass plays in a row to go three-and-out, using little clock time. He wondered why the team would take that tack with Beanie Wells running so effectively.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals ran the ball four times in a row beginning with 7:00 remaining in the fourth quarter and ending with Beanie Wells' touchdown run for a 27-17 lead with 5:20 remaining. The Giants then scored a touchdown to make it 27-24 the next time the Cardinals got the ball. Arizona then ran the ball on first down, making it five consecutive running plays from the 7:00 mark to the 3:37 mark. Was this the time of the game you were referencing?

The way that last answer reads, it appears as though I'm burying poor Phil here. That was not my intention. But in looking at the only Cardinals three-and-out series in the final minutes, the team did hand off to Wells on first down. He gained three yards, at which point the Giants used their second timeout, stopping the clock with 3:32 remaining.