Tuesday, November 8, 2011
NFC West Stock Watch
By Mike Sando
1. Rams/Seahawks special teams. St. Louis had its game-winning attempt at a field goal blocked as regulation expired against Arizona. The Rams then allowed the second-longest punt return in NFL history. Seattle did a better job on its coverage teams, but Leon Washington muffed a kickoff return, forcing the Seahawks to begin a drive at their own 5-yard line. The Seahawks also had a field goal try blocked. Another attempt barely sailed through after the Cowboys tipped the ball. These teams aren't good enough in other areas to tolerate basic breakdowns on special teams.
2. Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks quarterback. This was Jackson's most erratic performance of the season and one that validated the criticisms accompanying him from Minnesota to Seattle during the offseason. The Seahawks did not feel comfortable from a protection standpoint using their no-huddle offense extensively against Dallas. That seemed to hurt Jackson, who had been effective using those tactics. Life doesn't appear to get much easier for Jackson in the short term. He's got a game against Baltimore next.
3. Seahawks linebackers. Seattle's run defense entered Week 9 leading the NFL in yards per carry allowed. That ranking fell to third after the team had no answer for Cowboys rookie DeMarco Murray. Linebackers missed tackles and appeared out of position at times. The Cowboys won quite a few blocking battles. They had success running behind fullback Tony Fiammetta. Linebacker K.J. Wright seemed to learn some rookie lessons in this game.
Marshawn Lynch was a bright spot for the Seahawks on Sunday.
1. Arizona Cardinals special teams.Patrick Peterson's winning 99-yard punt return followed Calais Campbell's game-saving blocked field goal during a 19-13 victory over the Rams. Cornerback Richard Marshall made a key block during Peterson's return. Peterson gets most of the credit, though. The Cardinals could very well be 0-8 instead of 2-6 without his touchdown returns against Carolina and St. Louis. Meanwhile, Campbell credited teammates Darnell Dockett, Clark Haggans and David Carter for helping him break through to block the field goal try. The Cardinals had to have those plays to break their six-game losing streak.
2. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks running back. Lynch rushed for 135 yards, his highest total since coming to Seattle, during an otherwise forgettable 23-13 defeat at Dallas. Establishing the ground game in the second half of the season probably stands as the Seahawks' top priority. This was a good first step. Lynch ran hard and found wider running lanes. He has now scored a rushing touchdown in each of his past four games, a first for a Seahawks runner since Shaun Alexander in 2005.
3. Bruce Miller, 49ers fullback. The 49ers converted Miller from defense to offense upon drafting him in the seventh round from Central Florida this year. Miller has gotten extensive playing time with an injury sidelining veteran starter Moran Norris. He has improved significantly and broke through as a skill player Sunday with a 30-yard touchdown reception during a 19-11 victory over the Washington Redskins. Most fullbacks go their entire NFL careers without making a play such as that one. Miller needed only eight games.