Thursday, November 3, 2011
Around the NFC West: 49ers threaten West
By Mike Sando
Brock Huard of 710ESNP Seattle says the San Francisco 49ers' success is legitimate and stands as a long-term threat for coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and the Seattle Seahawks. Huard: "Jim Harbaugh has had success at every turn. He is building something very special in San Francisco. For Pete Carroll and John Schneider, this is not going to be the woeful NFC West that Mike Holmgren had for a decade. This is going to be a brutal, black-and-blue division for a long time." Noted: The Seahawks have won four division titles since 1999 without exceeding nine victories. The have won two additional division titles during that time without exceeding 10 victories. Only once since 1985 have the Seahawks exceeded 10 victories in a season. That was in 2005, when the team went 13-3 on its way to the Super Bowl.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com compares the Seahawks' current struggles and those experienced during Holmgren's early years with the team. Farnsworth: "After Holmgren was hired in 1999, the Seahawks backed into the playoffs and an AFC West title in his first season. Then, Holmgren decided to remake the roster. Twenty-five games into his tenure (including playoffs), Holmgren had an 11-14 record and was struggling to find a quarterback from a group that included Jon Kitna, Brock Huard and Glenn Foley. Holmgren’s QB quandary remained unsettled even after he made a trade with the Green Bay Packers to acquire Matt Hasselbeck and signed Trent Dilfer as a free agent in 2001. An injured and ineffective Hasselbeck struggled through the 2001 season. Dilfer was named the starter in 2002, only to be injured twice." Noted: There's a tendency to recast unplanned events as planned ones when things work out. The fact that Seattle eventually succeeded under Holmgren doesn't mean all the early failures were necessary ones. Holmgren seemed to have turned the page on Hasselbeck, who might not have gotten another chance with the team had Dilfer avoided injuries. But because Hasselbeck succeeded ultimately, it's as though Holmgren and the rest of us knew it would happen all along. We did not know that.
Also from Farnsworth: The team has allowed only two second-half touchdowns all season, the lowest figure in the league through Week 8. The Ravens (three), Browns (four) and Lions (four) are next.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says quarterback Kevin Kolb feels like a "weenie" for being sidelined by a turf-toe injury. Kolb: "I remember Deion Sanders was the first one I have ever saw that had 'turf toe,' and I was thinking the same thing as a fan: 'What? Why is (he) out for two weeks with a turf toe?' Then you get one and realize it's a little more painful than it comes across as." Somers: "Turf toe involves sprained or torn ligaments in the metatarsophalangeal joint, which indicates why the injury goes by a much shorter name. Kolb also has a mid-foot sprain in other ligaments and a bone bruise. It is not a lisfranc injury, which is more serious. Kolb has to be able to plant and drive off the foot to get full power on his throws."
Also from Somers: Fullback Reagan Maui'a says an alcohol problem led to his suspension earlier in the season.
More from Somers: Beanie Wells is not yet practicing, but he's expected to play Sunday.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com profiles the team's young outside linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield. The two have divergent personalities, something Schofield has fun with. Schofield: "Everybody says Sam is the brain guy, so I’m like, 'Damn, so then I’m stupid?' "
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is inching closer to returning from a high-ankle sprain. Sounds like Bradford will not be ready this week, however. Thomas: "The silver lining to the injury is that Bradford has been able to talk with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on game day, not just when the Rams' defense is on the field but also when the Rams' offense is out there. It has allowed Bradford to get a better feel for McDaniels -- why he calls certain things at certain times, and what he's seeing during the ebb and flow of a game."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team has until early next week to activate receiver Mark Clayton from the physically unable to perform list or lose him for the season. An Achilles problem has stunted Clayton's return from a knee injury.
Also from Wagoner: the latest on Bradford, and a note about how cornerback Marquis Johnson played well in his return from injury.
More from Wagoner: an update on Robert Quinn's development.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' Dashon Goldson isn't happy about being wrongly penalized for what officials called an illegal blow to the head against Cleveland. Goldson: "I'm good. I knew it was clean . . . If it was a blow to the head, I would've had a $15,000 or $20,000 fine in my locker right now. But I got penalized. That could've cost us the game."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers defensive end Justin Smith missed practice on a veteran's courtesy, not because of an injury. Smith has started 162 games in a row.
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sees 49ers quarterback Alex Smith pick up traits from coach Jim Harbaugh. How thick is the 49ers' playbook each week? State secrets.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers should be able to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Kawakami: "Because of their walloping defense, the 49ers should realistically aim for the No. 2 seed, and a first-round bye. And because the 49ers offense remains less than dynamic (though effective), they should really want that No. 2 seed, so they can avoid the prospect of having to play a first-round shootout against a team such as Philadelphia or Atlanta. But to do that, the 49ers have to beat out the winners of the NFC East and South divisions -- it looks like a 12-4 record is the most realistic way for the 49ers to do that." Noted: The 49ers' offense has outscored the Falcons' offense 167-116 this season. The Eagles' offense has 173 points. More on this in a bit.